January 03, 2006

Happy Abramoffukkah!

Another legal brouhaha, another celebratory blend. Last year we had Fitzmas and Kitzmas. This year kicks off with Abramoffuk(k)ah, commemorating Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff's guilty plea earlier today.

As with Fitzmas, it looks like there were multiple discoverers of this felicitous blend. Maximus Clarke (aka "Artifice Eternity") used it in a comment on Metafilter on Dec. 21 ("First comes Fitzmas, then comes Abramoffukah!"). It showed up on Ed's Daily Rant the same day with the "Abramoffukkah" spelling. (Both were reacting to the news that Abramoff was looking for a plea deal that could implicate Tom DeLay and other top Republican legislators.) The day after that, it was used by "DCeiver" guest-blogging on Wonkette. The expression was further popularized in a Dec. 30 post on Daily Kos by "Sherlock Google," who credited Clarke with the coinage — though if time stamps are to be trusted, it looks like Ed's Daily Rant beat out Clarke by several hours.

It's not too surprising that several online wags should independently hit upon Abramoffukkah. The wild success of the Fitzmas blend was an easy model for liberal bloggers to follow, with the new coinage conjuring up the same schadenfreude at the legal follies of top Republicans. Secondly, Abramoff's orthodox Judaism makes a blend with the seasonally appropriate Hanukkah a natural fit. And finally, the blendability of -ukkah has already been established over the last couple of years by the jocular pseudoholidays of Chrismukkah (celebrated by the fictional inhabitants of "The O.C.") and Chrismahanukwanzakah (featured in tongue-in-cheek advertising from Virgin Mobile), along with several other variants. If there's such a thing as an overdetermined neologism, this is certainly an example of one.

[Update: Ella Earp-Lynch swiftly spotted yet another factor contributing to the creation of Abramoffukkah:

You made a lot of valid points about why this blending might occur to multiple people at once. However, I do think that you missed one, being the orthographic and phonological similarities between either spelling of the neologism and many pseudo-dialectal alternative spellings of the common pejorative (fucker). The coincidental presence of the word 'off' in Mr Abramoff's name makes it even more evocative. ]

Posted by Benjamin Zimmer at January 3, 2006 11:40 PM