the blendoid

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Wed Jan 12 23:01:10 UTC 2005

uttered by our own Grant Barrett, 1/7/05, at the first WOTY discussion
in Oakland:
   ... put your balls on the table

this is clearly based on "put one's cards on the table" 'be open,
candid', but with an element of bravery and/or audacity associated with
"balls" as in "have the balls to".  (of course, actually putting your
balls on the table would be both open and audacious, not to mention
risky and probably uncomfortable.)  this is not your usual blend, for
two reasons: (a) the combining elements are not competing expressions
for the same or similar meanings, but each contributes meaning to the
result, which (i surmise, though grant can speak for himself here)
conveys something like 'have the balls to put one's cards on the table'
; and (b) the result is not really a structural amalgam of "put one's
cards on the table" and "have to balls to", but really just the former
with "balls" taking the place of "cards".

the closest thing to this that we've discussed here is, i think,
"bunker down".  in the words of jerry cohen, on 10/10/03:
"Bunker down" is not a blend. It's merely "hunker down" with the
intrusion of "bunker" (based both on phonetic similarity and the idea
of hunkering down in a bunker.
"bunker down" also might have an eggcornesque/malapropistic tinge to
it, if those who use it think that "bunker" makes more sense than
"hunker" (if, for example, they're more familiar with "bunker" than
"hunker").  such a tinge is entirely missing in "put one's balls on the

in any case, we have one clear model expression, and then a lexical
intrusion from another expression that's floating in the air (more
accurately, in the speaker's mind).  a sort-of-blend, or blendoid.

arnold (zwicky at

More information about the Ads-l mailing list