Snapdragon. Isn’t that a fabulous word? There’s something so enjoyable about compound words, those double-decker word-salad mash-ups (sans hyphen). They’re just so evocative: Skyscraper. Foghorn. Windsurf. Bellbottom. Shadowbox. “Hitching up her petticoats, Annamaria strode along the waterfront towards the seashore, thinking hungrily of the linzertorte left behind in the saddlebag.”
Is that beautiful, or what?
“Water” is particularly suited to compounding: waterwheel, watercraft, whitewater, waterlog, waterboard… no, compound words are not always poetic. Hydrofrack has water in it too, but you wouldn’t want to drink it. And there are any number of compound insults, of which dumbbell is the least vulgar that comes to mind.
But to backtrack to the matter of copywriting, which is our very lifeblood here at the Content Bureau, business-speak seems to spawn imaginative metaphorical meanings for compound words. We have turnkey solutions to bandwidth issues and roadmaps to implementing backend gateways; we have sales pipelines and streamlined workflows and software toolkits and downstream upsells. Lately, we have been seeing some compound word metaphors that leave even Content Bureau eggheads with a bit of a headache:
“I just read about “analytic tradecraft,” notes one Content Bureau scribe. “What the heck is tradecraft?” My guess is that it’s something like witchcraft, only more mercantile.
“I’ve been hearing wheelhouse a bit more lately,” writes a Content Bureau designer, “Meaning an area of expertise, as in ‘It’s right in my wheelhouse.’” The term derives from those railroad roundabouts that point locomotives down one track or another; but frankly, wheelhouse makes me think of Norwegian shipcaptains at the ship’s wheel piloting seafarers across whitecapped waterways, not overachieving office supermen. (Don’t let’s get started on Norwegian compound words; we wordlovers could get hopelessly lost in that infinite blåhimmel [bluesky]…)
Got any more noteworthy examples of screwball compound terms used in business? Send us your brainwaves in Comments—no deadline.
Coming soon: portmanteau words, e.g., “eating brunch with my spork while writing marcomm.”