[Generally it has been coined as] Obamadon

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Mon Dec 17 12:52:42 UTC 2012

I regret that my full-color portrait close-up of an Iguanadon did not go

See it here:


Upper left.


On Mon, Dec 17, 2012 at 2:57 AM, Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at stanford.edu> wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at STANFORD.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: [Generally it has been coined as] Obamadon
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Dec 16, 2012, at 10:52 PM, Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> > On Sun, Dec 16, 2012 at 8:30 PM, Jonathan Lighter
> > <wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com> wrote:
> >> "Iguanodon."
> >
> > And there should be "obamodon."
> >
> > But that would be too much like right. A dubious "honor" is made into
> > a trivial annoyance. :-(
> Wilson, i don't know why you're so determined to be sour about this
> coining, but the phenomenon is a matter of choosing between two resolutions
> of what happens when Obama combines with -odon; the vowel hiatus could in
> principle be resolved by sacrificing either vowel (the -a of Obama or the
> -o of -odon).
> the older toothy -don words are all -odon, it is true:
> labyrinthodon, mylodon, iguanodon, sphenodon, glyptodon, mastodon
> but that's because what precedes the -odon was understood to be a STEM
> with its own existence, independent of whatever vowel might be associated
> with the stem in its other occurrences. iguan- has iguana as a
> free-standing word, but it's just iguan- in the family name Iguanidae.  the
> practice of technical word-coiners was generally to posit a stem without a
> final vowel, regardless of the etymology.  proper names present a special
> problem, however, since positing a stem without a final vowel can mask the
> identity of the proper name.
> the coiners of Obamadon chose to be faithful to the proper name.  that
> seems to me to be a justifiable decision, even if it's not the one that
> older technical word-coiners would probably have chosen (which in effect
> ranks the -o of -odon as more significant than the -a of Obama, by
> extracting a stem Obam- for combination with second elements).  indeed, the
> identity of the 'tooth' element is entirely clear if -odon loses its -o.
> i don't know if there are other cases where the identity of a proper name
> has been preserved at the cost of a vowel in a combining form, but there
> probably are some, since the instinct for faithfulness is strong.
> in any case, there are two possible resolutions.  one of them has a
> tradition behind it, but it seems to me that the other is defensible as
> well, and i see no reason to slam people who have made the second choice.
> arnold
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