In his book "Humorous English," Evan Esar writes,

"The blended compound is the fusion of two compounds, with the terminal word of one being the same or similar to the initial word of the other. By such telescoping ... one's adopted country becomes a stepfatherland, and Lewis Carroll's dragonfly becomes a snapdragonfly. Many a piece of wit gains its effect solely through a blended compound." He proceeds to list a few examples:

"A college education is all too often merely sheepskindeep."
"The subway has created a new animal--the undergroundhog."
"Gossip has been defined as something heard over the sour grapevine."

Does anyone know of a technical term for this kind of wordplay? Throughout the book, which is a catalogue of comedic techniques, Esar coins original terms for the phenomena he describes, and so they aren't to be found elsewhere. But I suspect (and hope) that the devices he talks about have more widely recognized names. Would anyone happen to know?

  • A portmanteau word?
    – L3viathan
    Feb 9, 2015 at 12:58
  • Not an official term, but Wheel of Fortune often uses this type of wordplay in their bonus round, where it's called "Before & After."
    – user438
    Feb 9, 2015 at 17:52

2 Answers 2


I know the German word Teleskopwort for this particular type of portmanteau word. A grandmaster of forming Teleskopwörter is the German writer Michael Ende who wrote a book titled "Der satanarchäolügenialkohöllische Wunschpunsch" (cf. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Night_of_Wishes)

For a more linguistic reference, see http://hypermedia.ids-mannheim.de/call/public/sysgram.ansicht?v_typ=d&v_id=588


Like L3viathan commented: Portmanteau

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