Morphological creativity: Shoedrobe

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Forwarded by Alex Baumans, an email advertisement from Legend Footwear in London — "RESTOCK YOUR SHOEDROBE FOR WINTER!"

Alex asks:

Shoedrobe? How did that formation come about? Are there other -drobes out there?

There are certainly plenty of other shoedrobes out there, including a twitter hashtag, an instagram hashtag, and quite a few news-ish quasi-advertisements, e.g. "Shoe-drobe Envy: Kylie Jenner"; "Festival Footwear Shoe-drobe Guide"; "Time to Stock Your Shoedrobe"; "What's in my Summer Shoedrobe?"; "Design File: Volve S90 Excellence Comes With Shoe-Drobe"; "Shoedrobe Update"; etc.

The historical source of wardrobe is Norman French warderobe, apparently a calque of French garderobe, and so the original morphological ward+robe gets resyllabified to war.drobe, and then the  final syllable 'drobe emerges via the same fashion for cutesy final-syllable abbreviations as 'stache, 'rents, 'za, etc.:

[link] lace fabric and beaut feather design, make sure you pull this bodycon to the front of your 'drobe!
[link] Welcome to Drobe it! We're a new fashion-based social platform. Drobe It is a place to share your style, outfits and wardrobe.
[link] RJ. returned the smile. "I have to protect my 'drobe," he quipped. "Your 'drobe?" "Yeah. My wardrobe." RJ. tugged on the collar of his worn T-shirt. "Once you get one of these babies worn to the comfort zone you don't want to stain it with meat juices or anything."

And there's a British clothes label War & Drobe whose web site explains

War & Drobe garments are proudly handmade in London by founder and creator of the label Nina Kovacevic. As a child Nina came to London fleeing the war from former Yugoslavia. It was during this time that her mother taught her the power of fashion and the strength it can bring. The label was named and born out of a love for empowering women through fashion and allowing them to feel fierce and feminine in their day to day lives.

Neither 'drobe nor shoedrobe has yet had its OED Word Induction Ceremony. Whether the linguistic undergrowth is starting to breed shirtdrobes, bootdrobes, tiedrobes, pandrobes, etc., I leave to others to discover.

Alex again:

On a sidenote, does there exist a term for this kind of erroneous suffix-formation. Other cases such as -athon, -gate, -copter or -droid spring to mind, none of which are supported by the etymology of the original word.

Since it's time to start my workday, I'll also leave this one for the commenters to answer.


  1. Jen in Edinburgh said,

    December 6, 2017 @ 6:35 am

    And of course there is the city of War Drobe in the far land of Spare Oom.

  2. Rodger C said,

    December 6, 2017 @ 7:45 am


  3. Chris said,

    December 6, 2017 @ 8:11 am

    You mentioned "libfix" in an earlier post on this topic:

  4. Anonymous Coward said,

    December 6, 2017 @ 8:21 am

    Hmm, languages spontaneously becoming Chinese-like…

  5. Stephen Hart said,

    December 6, 2017 @ 11:18 am

    Seems as if "droid" figures in here.

  6. Ben Zimmer said,

    December 6, 2017 @ 11:19 am

    The only wardrobe blend I've come across before is floordrobe, defined by Wordspy as "a pile of discarded clothes on the floor of a person’s room" and dated to 1994. That could have encouraged interpreting -drobe as a libfix.

    (I see Wordspy also has wordrobe, defined as "the words and phrases that comprise a person’s vocabulary," but that would suggest -robe as a combining element.)

  7. Simon Tatham said,

    December 6, 2017 @ 11:26 am

    '-aholic', as in e.g. 'workaholic', is surely the canonical example of a suffix that rides roughshod over the etymology of which part of the original word was the suffix.

    But I don't think I'd go as far as calling it 'erroneous'. It's just treating other considerations as more important than etymology, and I'd argue that it is not wrong to do so. If you replaced 'work-aholic' with 'work-ic', you would lose the very important feature of the actual word that someone who hasn't heard it before has a fighting chance of working out what it means! Similarly with most of the other examples (-athon, -copter etc): the point is to include enough of the word you're deriving the suffix from that that word is still recognisable in the compound. This is an extremely important usability feature when you're improvising entirely new words on the spot with no prior usage or dictionary entry to support them: the reader has to be able to work out what they mean without any other kind of help.

  8. Ben Zimmer said,

    December 6, 2017 @ 11:46 am

    For those unfamiliar with the term, Arnold Zwicky coined libfix in a 2010 post on his blog. He describes libfixation as "the 'liberation' of parts of words [like –tard, –flation, and –naut], to yield word-forming elements that are semantically like the elements of compounds but are affix-like in that they are typically bound." Arnold has an archive of libfix postings (including discussions of many of the forms thus far mentioned) here.

    I've also adopted libfix(ation) in my contributions to "Among the New Words" in American Speech over the past several years (e.g. here). I came across discussion of what we'd now call libfixes in American Speech going back to 1942 — Harold Wentworth used the term "neo-pseudo-suffix" in an article about -eroo, and Dwight Bolinger (the first editor of "Among the New Words") picked up on Wentworth's term the following year with many more examples. (Arnold blogged about this briefly here.)

  9. John Laviolette said,

    December 6, 2017 @ 12:14 pm

    Another example is "orker", currently only used in the intentional humorous compound "cow-orker". But we can always hope for new kinds of orkers.

  10. Mick O said,

    December 6, 2017 @ 12:20 pm

    Makes me wonder if Hugh Hefner had a robedrobe.

  11. SlideSF said,

    December 6, 2017 @ 1:46 pm

    If I am not mistaken (and I probably am), the ur-phenomenon of this construction in English is the lowly hamburger. Named for a city in Germany called Hamburg, it is neither made of ham, nor does the burger part mean (originally) a ground substance patty. Nevertheless, we have cheeseburger (notably not a patty made of ground cheese), veggie-burger, lamburger, Spamburger, salmon burger, Impossible burger, etc.

  12. Ben Zimmer said,

    December 6, 2017 @ 2:02 pm

    @SlideSF: Indeed, -burger was noted by Bolinger as early as 1943 as an example of a "neo-pseudo-suffix" (i.e., a libfix) — he cites an earlier American Speech article, from 1939, on "Hamburger Progeny." I have examples of the libfix's productivity back to a 1934 issue of Life magazine, where the humorist S.J. Perelman recounts a Hollywood waitress saying, "We have hamburgers, chickenburgers, beefburgers, baconburgers, steakburgers…. Why don't you try one of our specials—a nutburger?" And of course there's nothingburger (first used by Louella Parsons in 1953).

  13. richardelguru said,

    December 6, 2017 @ 2:50 pm

    So they should have used 'wardshoe'?

  14. Chas Belov said,

    December 7, 2017 @ 1:14 am

    I'm looking for a more formal term to describe what I've called ninja words,, concerning what cheeseburger, mentee, La Niña, Silver Alert, and Nannygate have in common: production with a misguided reference to the origin of the original.

  15. maidhc said,

    December 7, 2017 @ 2:09 am

    What about the vulgar use of "bus" to refer to an omnibus transportation vehicle?

  16. Michael said,

    December 7, 2017 @ 5:57 am

    Has anyone played TRIOMINO?

  17. BZ said,

    December 7, 2017 @ 1:10 pm

    I'd be interested to learn when and in what language this shortening took place. I ask because the Russian term "omnibus" refers only to horse-drawn buses, while the term for a modern bus is "autobus". While "bus" by itself is not a Russian word, this does show that it was once a productive morpheme, either in Russian, or whatever language "autobus" was borrowed from (In English, interestingly, "autobus" was used to differentiate modern buses from horse-drawn ones, and mostly died with the latter, the reverse of what happened in Russian)

  18. Jerry Friedman said,

    December 7, 2017 @ 7:32 pm

    Michael: I have a set—it must have been a gift—but I've never played it. I've also seen a set of pentaminoes. Unfortunately, the "X" wasn't made of titanite.

    Chas Belov: What you're talking about might be a type of folk etymology, though I doubt that "cheeseburger" and "Nannygate" are based on misguided attempts at etymology.

    The scientific name of the waxwing genus is Bombycilla. It appears to be the French ornithologist Viellot's attempt at calquing the German name, Seidenschwänze, 'silktails'. As I understand it, he thought Motacilla, the wagtail genus, meant "move-tail", so he liberated -cilla. However, it's really a diminutive suffix.

  19. rosie said,

    December 8, 2017 @ 2:02 am

    Solomon Golomb used the terms "polyominoes" and "pentominoes" in a talk to the Harvard Mathematics Club in 1953 and in an article in the American Mathematical Monthly in 1954.

  20. Jerry Friedman said,

    December 8, 2017 @ 12:43 pm

    rosie: Thanks, I guess I should have checked the spelling of "pentomino".

  21. Kimball Kramer said,

    December 10, 2017 @ 10:07 pm

    Everyone in the restaurant business knows that it is forbidden to make a sandwich of ground ham because it would be impossible to name it.

  22. Easterly said,

    December 12, 2017 @ 11:19 am

    Not quite on point, but still fun, Zagreb has a burger joint named "Purgar King", a "purgar" in Zagrebački Croatian being a 3d generation (paternal and maternal) Zagrebian, i.e., someone from a well established Zagreb bürger family.

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