Ever wondered what makes a “good” ship name? Why does Faberry sound better than Quichel? This is a linguistic paper looking at 163 blended fandom pairing names and analyzing the spelling and pronunciation factors that determine which blends catch on. Abstract:
In English, blending is a highly predictable and productive naming process. However, no systematic morphological template for blends has yet been proposed. Using data from Internet fandom pairing names (FPNs), I describe the phonological and orthographic constraints that shape blended words, such as preference for complex onsets, maintenance of stress placement, and phonological and orthographic overlap. Outputs are compared with lexical neighbors to evaluate their phonotactic acceptability and orthographic transparency. This model of blending describes the interaction of many layers of representation, and also shows the effect of the Internet as a text-based speech community participating in linguistic decision-making.
Two of the main constraints that the paper identifies are:
1. Stress Match: the blended name has a single logical syllable that receives main stress, and the splice point is at each name’s stressed syllable (e.g. barBOSsa + eLIZabeth = barBOSsabeth).
2. Onset Conservation: the more complex onset gets substituted for the less complex one (e.g. Brooke + Peyton = Breyton).
Read the full paper by Cara DiGirolamo for more, including a case study of Faberry, what happens when two names have a letter or syllable in common (spoiler: they overlap), what happens when a blended name has a confusing pronunciation (spoiler: it’s bad), and a full list of all blended names included in the study at the end.
The paper was published in 2012, so I’d guess that it was probably mostly written in 2011, which means that newer shows like Sherlock aren’t mentioned. However, since the principles are quite general, I’d guess that they should still apply — anyone want to test them?