In his book Humorous English, Evan Esar writes,

The blended compound is the fusion of two compounds, with the terminal word of one being the same or similar to the initial word of the other. By such telescoping ... one's adopted country becomes a 'stepfatherland', and Lewis Carroll's dragonfly becomes a 'snapdragonfly'. Many a piece of wit gains its effect solely through a blended compound.

He proceeds to list a few examples:

  • A college education is all too often merely sheepskindeep.
  • The subway has created a new animal—the undergroundhog.
  • Gossip has been defined as something heard over the sour grapevine.

Does anyone know of a technical term for this kind of wordplay? Throughout the book, which is a catalogue of comedic techniques, Esar coins original terms for the phenomena he describes, and so they aren't to be found elsewhere. But I suspect (and hope) that the devices he treats therein have more widely recognized names. Is that the case?

  • I've added the [pun] tag as that seems relevant. It may be that this particular type of word-play is more than a simple pun and does have its own name that isn't just "blended compound"
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 10:40
  • Thanks so much, Andrew. And thank you for editing and organizing my terribly messy post. If I could decipher the instructions, I would've done it myself.
    – inkd
    Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 10:42
  • It sounds like "portmanteau", but you are looking for a merged phrase, not a merged word.
    – March Ho
    Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 10:42
  • 1
    How many divers does it take to circumsize a whale? Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 7:16
  • 1
    @BrianHitchcock: Gotcha! Good one! Here's another: I don't want to be immortal by doing great things; I want to be immortal by not dying! And yet another: I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my late grandfather, and not like the screaming passengers in his car! Don Commented Feb 18, 2015 at 13:39

1 Answer 1


Wikipedia suggests that they are blend words.

There are many types of blends, based on how they are formed. Algeo, a linguist, proposed dividing blends into three groups:
1. Phonemic Overlap: a syllable or part of a syllable is shared between two words
2. Clipping: the shortening of two words and then compounding them
3. Phonemic Overlap and Clipping: shortening of two words to a shared syllable and then compounding

The first group applies to the examples you have listed.

Pop-culture note: Wheel of Fortune calls puzzles with this style of answer "Before and After" puzzles. The answers are not blended into a single word as you have suggested, but the wit and construction are the same as your usage.

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