'man-' blends (was: "bromance")

Dennis R. Preston preston at MSU.EDU
Thu Mar 27 16:42:32 UTC 2008

"Purse" was certainly not always exclusively BrtEng in the sense
"wallet." My WKY grandparents, born late 19th C, always called a
wallet a purse (to the amusement of us kids, who were equally amused
to hear our toys called "pretties").


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>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Poster:       Damien Hall <halldj at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
>Subject:      'man-' blends (was: "bromance")
>Larry asked us to help fill in his blank about blends and portmanteaux with an
>initial element 'man-', 'm-' or similar.  Now that I'm actually
>trying to think
>of them, I have a similar blank, but one possibility I _can_ think of is
>manbag < man + (hand)-bag
>to denote the usually rectangular, often leather bags that have become popular
>for men (at least in Europe) recently, serving a purpose analogous
>to that of a
>lady's 'handbag' (a 'purse' in AmE;  BrE 'purse' = AmE 'wallet').
>You could say that _manbag_ doesn't qualify as a blend / portmanteau since it
>could be derived straightforwardly from _man_ + _bag_, but the use of the term
>is certainly intended to evoke the similarity with a _handbag_, including a
>slight insinuation of campness / preciousness on the part of the manbag's
>carrier.  The phonology of the word fits with it being a derivation from
>_handbag_, too, given the deletion of _handbag_'s /d/ in this context.  (But I
>note that, for me, the deletion of /d/ and consequent creation of the
>environment /nb/ here doesn't lead to place-assimilation of the nasal, so that
>I still pronounce _handbag_ differently from _ham bag_, at least in careful
>Anyway, _manbag_ has ~99,000 Yahoo! hits.  One of the top ones is
>the Wikipedia
>page on the item:
>The author of that page agrees with me that the term is a portmanteau of _man_
>and _handbag_, and gives a technical definition of the term in terms of the
>types of bag that it includes.  Also, one of the sponsored advertisements
>appearing on the search page makes the connection between _manbag_ and
>_handbag_ explicit.
>[Side note:  following the discussion and analysis of the possible
>/ inaccuracy of Google hits as a measure of popularity, and the
>suggestion that
>Yahoo! might be better, I'm converting to that.  For _manbag_, Google had
>~254,000 hits.  And I propose the obvious contraction _yahits_ for _Yahoo!
>Also, it may be reaching a little bit, but possibly the phrase _man flu_ fits
>into this category?  In my experience the phrase is most often used by women
>wishing to deride their male friend / partner etc for exaggerating his common
>cold, but men can use it self-deprecatingly too.
>Clearly the phrase can be seen as straightforward _man_ + _flu_, but I propose
>that it may have come about on the analogy of other NPs where the N was _flu_
>(_bird flu_ etc).
>Damien Hall
>University of Pennsylvania
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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thinking, actively utilizing his small share of knowledge. Alfred
North Whitehead

Dennis R. Preston
University Distinguished Professor
Department of English
Morrill Hall 15-C
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1036 USA
Office: (517) 353-4736
Fax: (517) 353-3755

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