Shamockery and shank-a-potamus

« previous post | next post »

Two items on the pop-cultural neologism front. First, the Cleveland Cavaliers are pretty upset that point guard Mo Williams hasn't been selected for the NBA All-Star game. Teammate Ben Wallace sounded off to the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

"It's a tragedy," Ben Wallace said. "I think it's an injustice. It's a fraud. We've got the best record in the league, and we've only got one guy going. You always make it the next year, after the year you were supposed to make it. It's a travesty and a sham and a mockery. It's a shamockery."

And when Williams wasn't even selected to be an All-Star reserve, team owner Dan Gilbert continued the neologistic assault in an email to the AP:

"Ben Wallace was right when he called Mo originally being passed over for the All-Star game a shamockery," Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert said in a tongue-in-cheek e-mail to The Associated Press. "But not naming him as the natural and obvious replacement for the unfortunately injured Jameer Nelson is stupidiculous, idillogical and preposterageous."

Shamockery, or more fully traveshamockery (also spelled travishamockery), goes back to a 2004 ad campaign for Miller Lite, specifically this campaign-themed "President of Beers" spot featuring comedian Bob Odenkirk:

Odenkirk's traveshamockery line must surely owe a debt of gratitude to Woody Allen. In his 1971 movie Bananas, Allen's character Fielding Mellish memorably says:

I object, your honor! This trial is a travesty. It's a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham.

Meanwhile, Dan Gilbert's neologisms (stupidiculous, idillogical and preposterageous) sound vaguely like the self-conscious lexical blends that Snickers rolled out for an ad campaign a few years ago (discussed by Arnold Zwicky here): nougatocity, substantialicious, satisfectellent, and so forth.

Item #2: While we're on the subject of ad-driven coinages (and professional sports), I would be remiss not to mention one of the more successful commercials from the recent Super Bowl. It's the ubiquitous E*TRADE baby, now mocking his golf partner by calling him shank-a-potamus:

(For those unfamiliar with golfing lingo, to shank a ball is to hit it with the heel of the club, causing it to veer in the wrong direction.)

Golfweek has already dubbed shank-a-potamus "the Word of the Year thus far." It's no ozay, but okay.

[Update: More on shank-a-potamus in this Chicago Tribune article, which spells it shankopotamus. The article references, among other X-(o)potamus forms, the Flight of the Conchords' hiphopopotamus discussed in the comments below.]


  1. Lazar said,

    February 6, 2009 @ 3:58 pm

    Well I think this post wouldn't be complete without a reference to "bootylicious", one of the most prominent of these new word-blendings. Then there's also "ginormous", which seems to have gained quite a bit of currency and which, I think, some people are even starting to use non-facetiously.

  2. Benjamin Zimmer said,

    February 6, 2009 @ 4:02 pm

    Lazar: I covered bootylicious and all of its morpholicious colleagues in a 2006 post, "The surreptitious history of -licious."

  3. Lazar said,

    February 6, 2009 @ 4:04 pm

    And who can forget the Flight of the Conchord's Hiphopopotamus v. Rhymenoceros routine?

  4. Benjamin Zimmer said,

    February 6, 2009 @ 4:16 pm

    Well, as long as we're Youtubing…

  5. Elvi said,

    February 6, 2009 @ 5:18 pm

    There's an ad on the radio here in the north-east of North America in which they make up a whole series of words such as thrillicious and amazerful. I wish I could tell you what they're advertising, but all I can remember is that it is a drink, possibly Sobe or Fruitopia or something along those lines. Fairly inane, but I'm more inclined to like it now that I know it's but one in an illustrious line of comic bits.

  6. Dave M said,

    February 6, 2009 @ 5:44 pm

    So, a shank-a-potamus is someone who hits all his drives into the river?

  7. Dan T. said,

    February 6, 2009 @ 8:21 pm

    The on-screen fine print on the E*TRADE ad says you have to be at least 18 years old to open an account, so the baby is actually out of luck.

  8. Bryan said,

    February 7, 2009 @ 3:17 am

    "Traveshamockery" certainly predates that ad. I only ever saw it on an episode of Mr. Show with Bob [Odenkirk] and Dave. The last of which aired in 1998.

  9. Sili said,

    February 7, 2009 @ 11:05 am

    I'm oddly fond of the goth-apotamus, myself.

  10. mollymooly said,

    February 7, 2009 @ 12:20 pm

    "ginormous" is in the OED, with an earliest attestation of 1948 in Eric Partridge's "Dicionary of Forces' Slang".

  11. Mike Scanlon said,

    February 7, 2009 @ 9:10 pm

    I think it's a shamrockery, just like my mother had.

  12. Bob Ladd said,

    February 8, 2009 @ 6:05 pm

    Ginormous is certainly very common at the primary school my kids went to in Edinburgh. How widespread it is among young speakers in Edinburgh, Scotland, or the UK generally I don't know, but if was in use in the British military in the 1940s and in an Edinburgh primary school in the early 21st century it seems a reasonable guess that it's pretty common in the UK. I'd never heard in it North America.

  13. Sports Blog said,

    March 15, 2009 @ 11:59 pm

    "Shamockery!" That is the funniest thing I heard all week.

RSS feed for comments on this post