Lexical Obamanations

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Today's Sore Thumbs starts with this panel:

The explanation, and more anti-Obama blends:

With the exception of Obamacare, these are actually rather rare, and somewhat unstable in meaning — thus Obamapression seems to be split between a blend with depression and a blend with oppression.

I can't think of very many cases of presidential-name blending as a popular activity. There's Reaganomics, Nixonomics, Clintonomics, and some sporadic coinages with -ology and -olatry. What else?


  1. Mr Punch said,

    December 1, 2010 @ 9:03 am

    I guess "teddybear" isn't enough of a blend?

    [(myl) It's more of a compound noun. But sure, let's count it. There's also Hooverville, which is the result of a more-or-less regular derivational process, but could be included as well.]

  2. Bruce Rusk said,

    December 1, 2010 @ 9:13 am

    I have seen Bushgate and Clintongate, both of which add another presidential affix. And Obamarama, which gets 66,000+ g-hits, was pretty much inevitable.

  3. David Beaver said,

    December 1, 2010 @ 9:14 am

    There's Billary, of course. I've also seen "he clintoned his answer…", which if you say it right would be a blend with "intone", though I suspect most people wouldn't.

  4. Amy Reynaldo said,

    December 1, 2010 @ 9:29 am

    And who can forget the Clenis?

  5. Seonachan said,

    December 1, 2010 @ 9:29 am

    People who reflexively defend Obama on every issue (or are perceived to do so) are often derided as "Obots".

  6. Jake said,

    December 1, 2010 @ 9:33 am

    Over the pond, we add -ite to many Prime Ministerial names to turn them into adjectives.

    – Thatcherite
    – Blairite
    – Brownite

    Majorite (for John Major) never really took off, but he wasn't particularly known for distinctive policies or personality to merit an adjective. Cameron has yet to establish himself as anything.

  7. Sam said,

    December 1, 2010 @ 9:39 am

    Once you have "Hooverville" you might as well add "Bushism".

    You coyly mention "Obamanation" in the title of your post, but don't include it in the body; this is a nice one because it's ambiguous between negative (abomination) and positive (Obama + nation).

    There's a book titled "Obamanomics" ( http://amzn.to/fxBztu ) so that's probably worth including in your -nomics list.

  8. Eric said,

    December 1, 2010 @ 9:46 am

    In addition to Obamacare, during the health care debate we heard a great deal about "Hillarycare," "Romneycare," and (less frequently) "Nixoncare."

  9. Kirk Hazen said,

    December 1, 2010 @ 10:07 am

    In parts of the US South, and I suspect other areas of the US, there used to be "Hoover carts". These were automobiles modified so they could be pulled by a mule or horse. Gasoline was so expensive or unavailable that people retrofitted the new technology.

  10. I.D. Mercer said,

    December 1, 2010 @ 10:18 am

    A Canadian equivalent of "Hoover cart":


  11. A said,

    December 1, 2010 @ 10:19 am

    Yeah "Bushism" came immediately to mind; an Amazon search turns up no less than three books and a video with "Bushism" in the title. Jacob Weisberg, the author of "George W Bushisms: The Slate Book of the Accidental Wit and Wisdom of our 43rd President", takes credit for the coinage, and says it was modeled on a Reagan name-blend — one of the Look Inside pages (p9) says "It was words like these that first provoked me to coin the term 'Bushism' a decade ago, on the model of the 'Reaganism of the Week' that used to appear in Lou Cannon's column in The Washington Post."

    I think I've heard "Obamanaut" most often as a word for people supposedly blindly enamored with our president.

    [(myl) We had dozens of posts about Bushisms. But again, X-ism for some name X is pretty much just regular derivational morphology, as is X-ite.]

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    December 1, 2010 @ 10:28 am

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  13. Jay said,

    December 1, 2010 @ 10:34 am

    "Clintonista" = a vocal supporter of Hillary Clinton. There's a book by that name listed on Amazon; I suspect it's self-published but it's still there (and there are a number of other hits as well).

  14. Oskar said,

    December 1, 2010 @ 11:10 am

    Maybe there's an Algoraphobe out there?

    (ok, I'm sorry, now I'm just making puns…)

  15. Sawney said,

    December 1, 2010 @ 11:19 am

    @Jake, Private Eye has been calling Dave's tight little circle 'Cameroonies' for some time now.

  16. stormboy said,

    December 1, 2010 @ 11:37 am

    @Jake and Sawney: also 'Cameroons'.

  17. Kylopod said,

    December 1, 2010 @ 11:43 am

    I'm pretty certain he has the most blended name of any president in history. It's not just the sheer number of blends that are possible with his name, but the surprising number of them that have caught on and been used widely. It could be partly because his name ends in an open vowel. Only two other presidents do–Monroe and McKinley–and neither the "oh" nor "ee" sound lends itself to blends as well as the "uh" at the end of Obama does. For that matter, his name also begins with a vowel, which lends itself to front-blends like Nobama and Gobama. (The other presidents with names beginning with a vowel were Adams, Arthur, and Eisenhower, but somehow it's hard for me to imagine anyone having made blends such as Badams or Liesinhower.) It is also, I suspect, because his name is so foreign and unknown to the average American.

  18. Brandon C Loudermilk said,

    December 1, 2010 @ 11:54 am

    I like the Spanish blended Obamanos.

  19. Ben C said,

    December 1, 2010 @ 12:16 pm

    I liked Bushleaguers / bushleague, comparing Bush followers / cabinet members to minor league baseball players.

  20. Ben Zimmer said,

    December 1, 2010 @ 12:16 pm

    Obama's blendiness was recognized in the American Dialect Society's voting for 2008 Word of the Year. "Barack Obama (both names as combining forms)" won in the "Most Useful" category and came in second overall to bailout. Wayne Glowka listed some Obama compounds on his nomination list:

    disObamalated, Obamabonanza, Obamabot, Obamacan, Obamacare, Obamacide, Obamacism, Obamacized, ObamaCon, Obamacon, Obamacrombie Obamadammarung, Obamaed, Obamaesque, Obamafy, Obamaian, Obamaism, Obamaist, Obamakin, Obamakinz, Obamaland, Obamalic, Obamamama, Obamamania, Obamamentum, Obamamerica, Obamanable, Obamanation, Obama Nation, Obamania, Obamaniac, Obamanomics, Obamanaught, Obamanaut, Obamanized, Obamanoxious, Obamapalooza, Obamaphile, Obamarama, Obamarket, Obamaship, Obamaspeak, Obamason, Obamatard, Obamathon, Obamaton, Obamessiah, and probably others

    See also Slate's Encyclopedia Baracktannica.

    As for Bush blends, the very first ADS WOTY back in 1990 was Bushlips 'insincere political rhetoric' — which has never been heard from again (except to ridicule the WOTY choice).

  21. Freddy Hill said,

    December 1, 2010 @ 12:17 pm

    There's Obamania, which is used with both positive and negative connotations. Also Hot Air, a popular political blog has a daily feature, "Obamateurism of the Day." See for example http://hotair.com/archives/2009/04/03/obamateurism-of-the-day-12/

  22. Jim said,

    December 1, 2010 @ 3:14 pm

    "In parts of the US South, and I suspect other areas of the US, there used to be "Hoover carts". "

    Like "Hoover hogs" = armadillos, a plentiful and substandard substitute for pork.

  23. David Scrimshaw said,

    December 1, 2010 @ 3:25 pm

    Are there still Reaganauts out there?

  24. J. W. Brewer said,

    December 1, 2010 @ 4:10 pm

    @kylopod: If modern internet culture had existed in the 1950's, it seems likely to me that Liesenhower would have caught on in its more intemperate precincts.

    For suffixations perhaps less morphologically conventional than -ite, I recall political supporters of the presidential ambitions of Ross Perot back in the '90's being variously called (probably by journalistic outsiders having some fun at their expense rather than as a self-designation) Perotistas and Rosstafarians. The latter is a pun and thus phonology-constrained (the only other instance of using the -stafarian suffix I'm aware of is the also-jocular "pastafarian"). One sees other uses of -ista, e.g. fashionista, but I'm not sure how fully productive it is, given its overtones of exoticism (which was maybe the point of the joke with Perot's primary appeal to stereotypically unexotic, uncosmopolitan Middle-American types — or perhaps the point was that these stolid Middle-American types had been temporarily transformed into revolutionary guerillas like the Sandinistas).

  25. Josh Treleaven said,

    December 1, 2010 @ 4:21 pm

    Canada has the Mulroney loonie, and a few abortive attempts like "Mulloonie".

  26. mollymooly said,

    December 1, 2010 @ 5:30 pm

    Not quite the same type of blend, but:
    In Ireland, taoiseach Brian Cowen is called "Brian Clowen" increasingly often as our wealth and status sinks.

  27. Kylopod said,

    December 1, 2010 @ 6:02 pm

    @J.W. Brewer

    Agreed. But I doubt it would go far beyond the netroots. I can think of at least three books published in 2008 with titles featuring plays on Obama's name: Jerome R. Corsi's The Obama Nation, Timothy P. Carney's Obamanomics, and Hendrik Hertzberg's Obamanos. That's got to be unprecedented.

  28. Andrew said,

    December 1, 2010 @ 8:05 pm

    Before "Obamacare" there was "Hillarycare", and I've also heard of "Romneycare", although I don't know whether the name picked up before or after "Obamacare". Are policies other than healthcare reform referred to by a proposer-suffix merge?

  29. Ilana said,

    December 1, 2010 @ 9:05 pm

    Hmm … how about "Obamanik"? Arguably it's quite rare though. But actually old Bushnikov supporters should have loved this for it sounds so commiesque …

  30. Kylopod said,

    December 1, 2010 @ 9:54 pm


    Republicans were talking about Clintoncare back in 1993, when Clinton was working on his health care plan, which he ultimately failed to get through Congress. I think that was the first instance of this suffix used in this way, and it has almost always had pejorative overtones. Its application to the current health care bill is especially questionable since Obama largely left Congress in charge of crafting the bill.

    Democrats have struck back by talking about Romneycare, because of the strong similarities between Romney's bill and Obama's, which Romney (unconvincingly) denies. In other words, the popularity of the moniker "Romneycare" is largely a reaction to the term Obamacare, though it was not unheard of when Romney signed the bill in 2006, or when he was running for president in 2008. Here is an early use of the term at a right-wing website:


  31. Nijma said,

    December 1, 2010 @ 10:33 pm

    Urban Dictionary says an Obot, short for Obamabot, is "a person who acts and responds in a political, routine manner, usually subject to another's will or agenda". The term has been used frequently on this pro-Clinton site; besides Obamaphiles already mentioned above, the comments section of the linked article yields Obamadrome, Obamadrama, Obamalama, and Obamallama, but balks at the three-l Obamalllama.

  32. Bob Violence said,

    December 2, 2010 @ 12:16 am

    You coyly mention "Obamanation" in the title of your post, but don't include it in the body; this is a nice one because it's ambiguous between negative (abomination) and positive (Obama + nation).

    "They say I was the Obamanation of Obama's nation, well/That's a pretty bad way to start the conversation"

  33. maidhc said,

    December 2, 2010 @ 4:17 am

    There was an attempt to start up the term "Santorum" (the definition of which can be easily found) as a tribute to the homophobic ex-Congressman, but it's not a usage that I, and probably many other people, would really have a need for.

    I vaguely remember there being an anti-war play titled "MacBird" in reference to LBJ and his Bird-named family.

    Slightly off-topic, the reference to -gate brought to mind the recent posting at Crooked Timber which draws a parallel between the Wikileaks brouhaha, now beginning to be called "Cablegate", although no cables are involved, and Saki's story "Tobermory". I thought that "Tobermory" would make an excellent term to describe such events, of which there are bound to be more.

    -gate implies some kind of scandal, like Contragate. A general revealing of somewhat embarrassing information is not quite the same thing, hence it needs a new word: Tobermory.

    I don't suppose many Americans read Saki, but I bet if the BBC dramatized his stories they would be popular on PBS, as the various Jeeves adaptations have been.

  34. Samantha said,

    December 2, 2010 @ 6:29 am

    I wonder if using Obama- or even O- as a prefix is analogous to the current widespread usage of the prefixes i- (and sometimes e-) being used everywhere to denote something new, trendy, or desirable? Apple's products of course come to mind, but in a pet store recently I saw a product called something like iBlanket for a normal plain old dog blanket that had nothing electronic, techy, or even innovative about it. And my former company's purchasing program was recently christened iPurchase (exact phrasing changed slightly), to emphasize the fact that you could make your company purchases with your own account rather than submitting forms to a person. So, while i- can mean "cool", "Obama-" is itself a prefix with its own meaning. The parallel rise of i- may explain why Obama's name has been getting blended more often than those of past presidents.

  35. Steve F said,

    December 2, 2010 @ 10:13 am

    In the UK a blending of a Prime Minister's name was often to be seen at the time when Tony Blair was perceived as having lied about Iraq's WMDs, and 'Bliar' was extremely common, especially on placards at demonstrations. This was, though, a slightly different sort of blend, since no suffix or prefix is involved, but only the transposition of two letters in his name.

  36. Breffni said,

    December 2, 2010 @ 6:56 pm

    J. W. Brewer:

    the only other instance of using the -stafarian suffix I'm aware of is the also-jocular "pastafarian"

    "Trustafarian" is well enough established to be in the OED, defined as "A wealthy young (white) person with a bohemian lifestyle, typically one who adopts aspects of the appearance and culture of other ethnic groups (esp. Rastafarians) and lives in or frequents a fashionable, multicultural area. Freq. mildly derogatory. Also as adj." First citation 1992.

  37. HP said,

    December 2, 2010 @ 8:51 pm

    What about Monrovia? That one goes back a ways (1824). Granted, it's a toponym, but it does seem to have been from a blend (e.g., Monroe+Moravia).

  38. John Cowan said,

    December 4, 2010 @ 4:56 am

    maidhc: I read MacBird as a child in my parents' library, and I still remember the opening lines: "When shall we three meet again / In fire, strike, or stopping train?" I ran into "Tobermory" much later, but I remember it fondly too.

  39. Aaron Davies said,

    December 4, 2010 @ 7:51 pm

    @J. W. Brewer: for some, at least, it was "Perotnista", a pun on the "Peronistas" who followed Juan Perón. I once worked very briefly for the pundit who apparently first used the term in print.

  40. Aaron Davies said,

    December 4, 2010 @ 7:51 pm

    what exactly is "obamanos" supposed to mean? the only thing that occurs to me is a blend with "vamanos", which doesn't seem to be what's meant….

  41. Aaron Davies said,

    December 4, 2010 @ 7:51 pm

    perhaps the "obamanations" in the post title is meant as a blend with "emanations"?

  42. John Cowan said,

    November 14, 2011 @ 1:21 pm

    Woops. "Riot, strike, or stopping train."

    More fragments found online:

    [MacBird meets the witches for the first time]
    Come on, speak up, now what in thunder are you?
    All hail MacBird! All hail the Senate's leader.
    All hail MacBird, Vice President thou art.
    All hail MacBird, that shall be President!

    [Older to younger witch]
    Neither a burrower from within nor a leader be,
    But stone by stone construct a conscious cadre,
    And this above all — to thine own class be true
    And it must follow, as the very next depression
    That thou canst not be false to revolution.

    [Voices of the public after Ken O'Dunc's assassination]
    Oh no! / Can't be! / They've shot the President!
    Oh, piteous sight! / O noble Ken O'Dunc!
    Oh, woeful scene! / O traitorous villainy!
    They shot from there. / No, that way. / Did you see?
    Let's get the facts. Let's go and watch TV.

    [Lady MacBird's madness]
    She's been this way or worse for several days now.
    We have to follow after her with Air-Wick,
    For every several steps she stops and sniffs,
    And crying out, "There's blood upon this spot!"
    She makes us spray to mask the phantom smell.

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