Wednesday, 11 January 2012


A student in today’s ‘Ways of Reading’ workshop is hoping that a friend’s term ‘banerk’ will catch on - it’s a mixture of ‘bananas’ and ‘berserk’.  ‘Berserk’ came from an Icelandic term for ‘battle-crazed warrior’ and was originally used as a noun rather than an adjective.  My favourite berserk or berserker is the Isle of Lewis chesspiece in the British Museum, who appears to be eating the top of his shield.  Does ‘to go bananas’ mean to be 'stupid-mad’ or ‘angry-mad’?  Partridge’s Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English doesn’t have ‘bananas’ in any sense of ‘crazy’, but the OED quotes A J Pollock’s Underworld Speaks (1935) to give the meaning of ‘sexually perverted’.  The idea that ‘going bananas’ has some physiological link to the high amounts of sucrose and potassium in the fruit is sadly unlikely.


MissMedia said...

Many thanks for helping to 'spread the word'!

Jake Coates said...

Thank you for championing my new word Miss Media! Do you think "Banerk" can survive in our constantly evolving lexicology? Is taht a word lol? I look forward the blogger's response. Iam going Banerk here just thinking about it!!

Julian Walker said...

There are lots of words which work in this way - portmanteau words, in which parts of two (or I suppose more if required) words are fused to make a new word; but 'portmanteau' is not a portmanteau word since 'manteau' is a complete word in its own right. Common portmanteau words are 'brunch', 'fanzine', 'motel', 'transistor', but not 'email' or 'newscast', since these contain complete words. A portmanteau was a trunk with two equal containing areas, which stands when open like a wardrobe; each half would not be able to function as a safe container for transporting clothes.

Hybrid animals produce hybrid names, some of which are becoming recognised - donkra (donkey + zebra), leopon (leopard + lion), and liger (lion + tiger). All of these are portmanteau words.

'Banana' is a wonderful word with a fine history, beginning in the Garden of Eden - see 'Discovering Words in the Kitchen'