22 arguments

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The most recent xkcd:

The title text (visible on mouseover as usual): "The article has twenty-three citations, one of which is an obscure manuscript from the 1490's and the other twenty-two are arguments on LanguageLog."

Language Log: Your go-to site for arguments, when you run out of 15th-century manuscripts.

A tribute to xkcd's popularity:


  1. fs said,

    May 12, 2010 @ 7:06 am

    I've seen you linking xkcd several times, but it's nice to see a shoutout going the other way for once :)

  2. egaliede said,

    May 12, 2010 @ 7:08 am

    I was disappointed to see there isn't actually a Wikipedia entry for this term.

  3. Jens Fiederer said,

    May 12, 2010 @ 7:09 am

    I was very disappointed to search this site, and the classic version, and find no references to "malamanteau" (or "malmanteau") prior to this one.

    Just can't trust anybody these days.

  4. Jens Fiederer said,

    May 12, 2010 @ 7:10 am

    Oh….there WAS a Wikipedia entry, briefly, but it got deleted and will probably be "protected" against creation.

    As the deleter pointed out, even if the word were valid it belong in Wikidictionary, not Wikipedia.

  5. Sili said,

    May 12, 2010 @ 7:16 am

    I immediately went to check your traffic statistics, but it was too early to see a spark.

  6. random_poster said,

    May 12, 2010 @ 8:00 am

    Okay language loggers, any examples of actual malamanteaux? We've got enough of a definition to start the hunting (and eventual wikidictionary and/or wikipedia entry). Let's make this thing real!

  7. Neil said,

    May 12, 2010 @ 8:01 am

    Apparently, before the XKCD bit came out, the only previous use of "malamanteau" was in 2007 on Ask.MetaFilter.com, according to a thread today on MetaFilter's Talk site: http://metatalk.metafilter.com/19266/Malamanteaus-Malamanteaux

  8. Andrew Durdin said,

    May 12, 2010 @ 8:20 am

    There are two anecdotal malamanteaux on a 2007 metafilter page (which is also possibly the first coinage of ’malamanteau’:

    > In conversations with two different people they've incorrectly combined words or terms to express themselves.

    > During the first discussion, the guy described his misunderstanding of what someone was saying by stating, "I misconscrewed it up."

    > The second time, another guy explained his inability to talk while upset by saying he was, "flustrated."

    > Malaprop is the closest I've come, but it's not quite what happens. And I'd love to hear other examples, because I think there's a strange brilliance to this phenomenon.

    And one response:

    > It's not spoonerism. More like a portmanteau combined with a malapropism. So I'd go with malamanteau or a portmanpropism.

    (source: http://ask.metafilter.com/67192/How-to-define-this-language-mistake )

  9. random_poster said,

    May 12, 2010 @ 9:10 am

    Does anyone have any examples of malamanteaux that have entered the general lexicon? (Btw, love "I misconstrewed it up".)

  10. jguenter said,

    May 12, 2010 @ 9:27 am

    I think "refudiate" might count.

  11. David said,

    May 12, 2010 @ 9:39 am

    Are you going to shut off comments after 22, so as to preserve the self-referentiality of it all?

  12. Leonardo Boiko said,

    May 12, 2010 @ 9:41 am

    xkcd guy wields the power of a wizard. everything he says becomes real.

  13. Słowosław said,

    May 12, 2010 @ 9:43 am

    George W Bush's "misunderestimated"?

  14. Ralph Hickok said,

    May 12, 2010 @ 9:49 am

    About 40 years ago, I knew a guy who said "misconscrewed" all the time. It wasn't a slip of the tongue or a deliberate attempt to be funny–he thought that was the actual word.

  15. peter said,

    May 12, 2010 @ 10:06 am

    Some Australian politicians used to be fond of "irregardless", which does have a Wikipedia entry.

  16. Bloix said,

    May 12, 2010 @ 10:20 am

    This being a sort of meta-thread, perhaps it's not objectionable to be OT: John Holbo at Crooked Timber noticed something odd about the Maine Republican Party's interpretation of to insure domestic tranquility" in the Preamble to the Constitution:

    "in order “to insure Domestic tranquility”, the Maine GOP prescribes 'a. Promote family values. i. marriage is an institution between a man and a woman. ii. Parents, not government, are responsible for making decisions in the best interest of their children, whether disciplinary, educational, or medical. iii. We recognize the sanctity of life, which includes the unborn.' "


    Do they really not know what "domestic" means or do they assume that the voters don't know?

  17. John Lawler said,

    May 12, 2010 @ 10:29 am

    @Bloix: Both.

  18. Bloix said,

    May 12, 2010 @ 11:20 am

    IT CAN'T BE BOTH!!!!!

    [(myl) Sure it could! For example, someone might have little or no idea about the standard meaning of "categorical imperative", "alkane thiols", or "tail recursion", but might use such phrases in an attempt to impress people who are believed to be equally ignorant.]

    But seriously, for some reason I get pleasure from misunderstandings of stock phrases due to evolution in meaning (suffer the little children, the exception proves the rule, beg the question, passive voice), so this one was a nice find.

  19. hsgudnason said,

    May 12, 2010 @ 11:55 am

    Perhaps the Maine folks' error was an instance of prevarification (or of a failure to prevarify–which makes the better malamanteau?).

  20. Rodger C said,

    May 12, 2010 @ 1:56 pm

    I've heard "flustrated" used in all seriousness.

  21. Chandra said,

    May 12, 2010 @ 2:04 pm

    @Słowosław: 'George W Bush's "misunderestimated"?'

    I believe "insinuendo" is another malamanteau courtesy of George Dubya.

  22. Dougal Stanton said,

    May 12, 2010 @ 4:07 pm

    @Ralph Hickok

    Do you mean "misconstrue" isn't real? Or were you kidding?

  23. chris said,

    May 12, 2010 @ 4:43 pm

    "Misconscrewed" seems more like an eggcorn than anything else. (At least, if seriously believed in and not a slip of the tongue that produces an unintentional bon mot.)

  24. john riemann soong said,

    May 12, 2010 @ 6:00 pm

    to address xkcd's original concern, Wikipedia really likes those terms because they get frequently used in meta discussions and there are policy pages about them.

    so word frequency for those words jump really high.

  25. Aaron said,

    May 12, 2010 @ 8:10 pm

    I got 22 arguments, but a prescription aint one?

  26. Nanani said,

    May 12, 2010 @ 8:59 pm

    I'm seeing less than one argument here.
    This must be remedied.

    What do S&W say about malapropisms and portmanteaux?
    Whatever it is, I'm sure we can argue about it.

  27. seriously said,

    May 12, 2010 @ 10:21 pm

    I just found the word "snarcasm" used in a comment thread somewhere. I'm probably behind the times and it's widely known, but I liked the word and am using this thread as an excuse to promote it.

  28. Dan M. said,

    May 12, 2010 @ 11:02 pm

    I think you've failed to noticed a slight change in spelling: "Misconstrued" is a well-respected word. "Misconscewed" is a bit more novel.

    But is "snarcasm" really any kind of malapropism? It seems like a simple portmanteau.

    (Yes, I am trying to take Nanani's advice and start an argument.)

  29. Rick said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 1:51 am

    I would think 'normalcy' qualifies, no? Does anyone know of any other nouns in common use that are formed by adding -cy to an adjective in -al?

  30. Nathan Myers said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 1:51 am

    Does "wanklage" qualify as a malamanteau?


    I wonder if there are any natural wanklages. Latin might qualify.

  31. Dougal Stanton said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 5:50 am

    @Dan M.

    The spelling is different but Ralph's post suggests it was never written down — "said" and "slip of the tongue" suggest it was a spoken word — so it could be easy to mistake one for the other in speech. Well, in my dialect anyway :-)

  32. wally said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 3:16 pm

    be sure to check out the very extended discussion on whether the word belongs in wikipedia.


  33. Steve Morrison said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 5:49 pm

    I've usually seen "I resent your insinuendoes" attributed to Richard Daley, rather than Dubya.

  34. Forrest said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 1:48 pm

    Another testament to xkcd's popularity is the Google list of suggested searches for died in a …?

    I was disappointed to see there isn't actually a Wikipedia entry for this term.

    And Wikipedia doesn't have an article titled List of Problems Solved by McGuiver anymore, either.

  35. Jeson said,

    May 15, 2010 @ 8:32 am

    My literature once told the class that he had a student who wrote in an essay:

    "… was lost in the bewilderness …"

    We thought it exceedingly, unendingly amusing.

  36. What Is a Malamanteau? | The One with the Thoughts of Frans said,

    May 29, 2010 @ 8:22 am

    […] on Wikipedia for a very short time due to a recent xkcd comic. It's a reference back to Language Log, which references xkcd sometimes, but the reverse seldom happens. A malamanteau (plural […]

  37. stephen said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 10:58 pm


  38. stephen said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 10:59 pm

    I meant to ask (write): exogenous?

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