I've been looking for a term that describes a phrase, unbroken into individual words, which could have multiple meanings depending on where it's divided. It's hard for me to even give good examples without being able to successfully search more about this phenomenon (I've tried), but here's a simple example: "aratslap" could be "a rat's lap" or "a rat slap".

I found this article on Wikipedia, describing unbroken sequences of letters: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scriptio_continua, but I couldn't find any related articles that were particularly helpful. There was another decent example of what I'm talking about, though: "chartable" could be "char table" (In case the reader's unfamiliar, a char is a noun in computing. It's a single character) or "chartable".

I ask because I think something like this could make an interesting title in some kind of work... The clear openness to interpretation is interesting.

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    This can be connected with what you ask: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rebracketing
    – Yellow Sky
    Jul 8, 2020 at 22:55
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    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/egghorn as a special case, not necessarily depending on rebracketing though
    – vectory
    Jul 9, 2020 at 0:59
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    From the NLP perspective, the task is called tokenisation (or "segmentation" on "word-boundaries"). It's mostly discussed for languages like Thai (or ancient Latin) which do not use spaces and do not lend themselves to list-based approaches like Chinese does, and occasionally for German noun compounds. Jul 11, 2020 at 12:16
  • Other language which don't use spaces between words are Burmese, Chinese, Japanese, Khmer, and Lao. A related rebracketing problem exists for Dzongkha, Tibetan, and Vietnamese which all insert breaks between every pair of syllables whether they're in separate words or in the same word. I believe spaces were not used in Ancient Greek or ancient Hebrew either. At least not in all eras. The techniques I was aware of for Thai do in fact use lists. Jul 14, 2020 at 7:03

1 Answer 1


I think that's called oronym.

In recreational linguistics, an oronym is a pair of phrases which are homophonic. When pronounced without a pause between words (internal open juncture), phrases which differ in meaning and spelling may share a similar pronunciation.

Example: "ice cream" /aɪs+kriːm/ and "I scream" /aɪ+skriːm/


Or eggcorn.

In linguistics, an eggcorn is an idiosyncratic substitution of a word or phrase for a word or words that sound similar or identical in the speaker's dialect (sometimes called oronyms). The new phrase introduces a meaning that is different from the original but plausible in the same context, such as "old-timers' disease" for "Alzheimer's disease". An eggcorn can be described as an intra-lingual phono-semantic matching, a matching in which the intended word and substitute are from the same language. [Wikipedia]

Mondegreen is also close to what you're looking for.

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