A colleague accidentally keeps adding the word case after referring to a project called basket, thus referring to it as "basket case". Embarassing. But what is this linguistic phenomenon called, i.e. accidentally adding a word which changes the meaning so that the connotation becomes negative?

  • 5
    How can you tell the addition is accidental? Oct 23, 2013 at 17:58
  • @jwpat7 agreed. You can never discount bullheaded sarcasm :-)
    – Patrick M
    Oct 23, 2013 at 21:00
  • I left an approximate answer, but I'm not sure there is a term as specific as you're asking for.
    – user28567
    Oct 23, 2013 at 23:41

5 Answers 5



Though usually used to describe saying an incorrect word that sounds like the word you want, it applies to any sort of 'accidental misues of a word'.

  • Malapropism is to "include any actual word that is wrongly or accidentally <s>used in place</s> of a similar sounding, 'correct' word" IOW, the 'malapropos' is the use of a replacement, and not an addition; there is nothing replaced with a compound word
    – Third News
    Jun 22, 2014 at 20:01

I'd think your colleague is either committing a "Freudian slip" by sub-consciously equating the "basket" project with "basket case", which means someone who's mentally ill, or it's a simple "slip of the tongue".

Freudian slip: A Freudian slip is a verbal or memory mistake that is believed to be linked to the unconscious mind. Common examples include an individual calling his or her spouse by an ex's name, saying the wrong word or even misinterpreting a written or spoken word. (from Psychology.About.com)

Slip of the tongue: n 1. an unintentional utterance; a mistake in speaking (from FreeDictionary.com)

  • @EdwinAshworth, wouldn't have known what? ;-) Oct 23, 2013 at 22:38
  • Sorry, editing. I'll post the whole: The rest of us wouldn't have known if you'd just ignored him/her. However, prompted to really examine your answer, I see it hardly focuses on OP's 'accidentally adding a word which changes the meaning so that the connotation becomes negative' , being far too general. I doubt there is an answer here. Your terms are not incorrect, merely too broad. PS Am I allowed to give a reason without a downvote? Oct 23, 2013 at 22:44

You can find a taxonomy of speech errors (or "slips of the tongue") in Gary Dell's seminal paper, A Spreading-Activation Theory of Retrieval in Sentence Production on page 285 (page 3 of the linked PDF). The terms used are unsurprising and in many cases can be understood without explanation.

In this case, the speech error in question is a word addition. Word additions, like most speech errors, do not occur completely at random. Rather, a number of biases can be seen and patterns in errors can be identified. Since you've provided no context, the only relevant bias that I can identify is collocational: since basket case is a collocation, if an addition is going to occur after basket, then case has a decent chance of popping up.

Your question asks in particular how to describe a word addition that "accidentally ... changes the meaning so that the connotation becomes negative". That I don't have a word for, but if pressed, I might call it unfortunate.

  • Great reference, although the link is now dead. I came here while pondering whether to ask another question along these lines - I frequently see internet forum posts where negations have been inserted or removed, utterly changing the meaning of a post and making it an interesting proposition to follow the discussion (frequently denials come out as assertions, and vice versa, but the meaning may still be successfully inferred by context and auxiliary statements of fact). The idea has echoes of Trump saying "I don't see why they would" and then claiming he meant "wouldn't". Sep 12, 2018 at 13:26


Typically in computer programming this means adding a string of characters to another string. I.E. Adding a word to an already existing word. For example: "basket " + "case" = "basket case". Though concatenation does not explicitly mean to "change meaning", that is most often what it implies.

  • This question is specifically asking for linguistic terminology, not computer terminology. Concatenation is actually sometimes used in linguistics, but not for this situation. Jun 23, 2014 at 2:42

Confusables: words that mean one thing when written as a single word and something a bit different when written as two words.

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