Keep your English up to date
Professor David Crystal
One of the big questions always with a language is: "how do new
words come into being?". Well, you can borrow them from other
languages of course; a lot of English words are like that. But one
of the lesser-known ways of making new words is to form a blend
- and a blend is when you run two words together to make a
third word. And people have done it since the beginning of English
actually. To take a recent example: alcopops - carbonated fruit
flavoured drinks containing alcohol - a very controversial thing this
was when they first came in a few years ago, because it was
obviously being aimed at children, and people were very
concerned that children would now have some alcohol introduced
into them that they weren't expecting.
But it's the word I want to talk about today - a very interesting
word indeed! Alco-pops. Alco is obviously the first part of the
word, shortened version of "alcohol". And pops is the second part
of the word. Pop you might not know so much about. It has quite a long-standing
usage. It's basically the word for lemonade once upon a time. Pop bottles -
because of the sound that's made when a cork is drawn out of an effervescing
drink - that sort of sound! - and pops suddenly became a very quick sound
symbolic way of expressing that kind of notion; so the two words have come
together: alcohol and pop ...and becomes alco-pops.
There are lots of words like this in English. Brunch is another one - for a mixture
of breakfast and lunch, and you can actually have quite a fun game making these
blends up yourself. For instance, if you decide that you want to invent a cross
between a helicopter and a bicycle shall we say? Well, make a blend about it. You
could call it a "helicycle" for instance, or maybe a "bicopter".
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