A yankering

A couple were talking about what cocktail to have, and the wife said “I didn’t know what you had a yankering for”. This is a great single word blend AND congruent conflation of “having a yen for” and “having a hankering for”, both meaning to have a strong desire or craving for something.

One may ask, “but Dave, isn’t this a portmanteau”? Not really.

The main difference is that a portmanteau is an intentional word blend while a malaphor is unintentional.  There are other differences:

A portmanteau is a combination of two (or more) words or morphemes, and their definitions, into one new word. A portmanteau word generally combines both sounds and meanings, as in smog, coined by blending smoke and fog. More generally, it may refer to any term or phrase that combines two or more meanings, for instance, the term “wurly” when describing hair that is both wavy and curly.

The word “portmanteau” was first used in this context by Lewis Carroll in the book Through the Looking-Glass (1871), in which Humpty Dumpty explains to Alice the coinage of the unusual words in Jabberwocky, where “slithy” means “lithe and slimy” and “mimsy” is “flimsy and miserable”. Humpty Dumpty explains the practice of combining words in various ways by telling Alice,

‘You see it’s like a portmanteau—there are two meanings packed up into one word.’

My single word blend malaphors are unconscious blends of words to make an unintentional new word. The word sounds or looks correct at first blush, but then on closer examination is incorrect. Examples so far on my website are “Buckminster Palace” (Buckingham and Westminster, and/or possibly Buckminster Fuller) and “split-minute decision” (split second and last minute).

“Yankering” fits the definition of single work blend malaphor. First, it was said unintentionally. Second, the blend did not form a new word. Third, it did not combine two or more meanings. Having said all that, I sure would like to see “yankering” added to the dictionary. Maybe with the definition “a REALLY STRONG desire or craving for something”.

A big thanks to Barry Eigen who heard his wife say this, and knew malaphor gold had struck.


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