[Ads-l] Ask a linguist...

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Mar 9 00:37:00 UTC 2023

…but listen carefully to the answer.  At least I hope it wasn’t the linguist—Judith Tschann of the University of Redlands—who said what she’s crediting with saying here.


For example, we are told:

Food and drink names also slip into common use through a process Dr. Tschann calls “coining,” in which a marketing term becomes a generic name. Granola, which today refers to a crunchy cereal with grains and nuts, started as a proprietary name invented by John Harvey Kellogg <https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/02/22/dining/history-of-cereal.html> in the late 1800s.

Now this process, in which a proprietary name (Kleenex, band-aid, cellophane, Thermos, heroin) becomes a generic may be called generalization, or (a particular kind of) broadening, or of course, as the lawyers do, genericide (not ‘killing of the generic’ but ‘killing [the brand name] via the generic’, as in “shoe bomber”). But what it isn’t is “coining”.  (Ron Butters must be rotating in his grave.)

And then in the very next paragraph we learn:

Compounding is another way food language grows. Bibimbap comes from the Korean pibim (to mix) and pap (rice). The espressotini <https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/17/style/espresso-martini-comeback.html> is a mix of espresso and vodka.

OK, bibimbap does seem like a case of compounding if it’s as described here.  “Espressotini” not so much.  Or at least it’s more blend than compound unless there are “tinis” walking around unaccompanied and consisting (as implied here) of vodka neat.  I seem to recall there’s a dedicated term for these “cheeseburger” type formations, but I can’t remember it.  Not as blatant a case as “granola” being a “coining”, but still.

I’ll let others who know more about the history of “reubens", “martinis", and other cocktails” jump in on those…

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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