A Quick Wordplay Challenge. Fun. Prizes.

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by Larry Brooks on May 25, 2010

Let’s have some fun.

Last night I was watching an episode of The United States of Tara, Showtime’s brilliant Spielberg-produced series starring Toni Collette as a wife afflicted with multiple personalities.

Yeah, like that never happens.

What I saw that inspired today’s idea had nothing to do with the story.  As a background piece of business, an artist character was working on a series of framed posters that took a normal word and broke it into two syllables which, when viewed as two words, had a completely separate and clever meaning.

Like the word warhead, for example.  Split it, and you get war head.  

The image you get from the whole word is a bomb.  The image you get from the separate word is the face of Donald Rumsfeld.

And that’s when it came to me.  This is cool.  I began playing with other words and found the exercise sort of fun.  Not only by coming up with splitable words, but with sarcastic little defintions that apply to the new creation.

Like the word carpet, for example.  Split it into car pet, and you get the image of a dog sticking its snout out the window of a moving vehicle.

Or the word earnest, which, when split into ear nest, brings to mind an image of the stuff growing out of the side of Larry King’s head.

Or — one more example — the word panache.  Split into pan ache, you have the feeling you get when your wife smacks you upside the head with a skillet.

You get the drift.

So here’s the challenge:

Give us your best shot at this.  Or shots.

Come up with a word that can be split into two syllables that, when viewed as a pair of words, have a completely separate meaning than the original word.

To spice things up, I’ll be “judging” not only the cleverness of the word(s) choice, but also the clever defintion of the new term (see examples above) as well. 

Two more examples. 

The word subdue splits into sub due: what happens when you promise someone a sandwich and it’s time to pay up.

The word sublime splits into sub lime: what you stuff into a bottle of Corona beer while traveling in a submarine.  Really.

Okay, not exactly Jim Carey, but you get the drift.

Put your best shot(s) in the Comment thread, and I’ll announce the “winner” next Monday.

Winner of what?  One of my ebooks (your choice) to the first three places.  And bragging rights. 

Tell your friends, everyone is welcome, so let’s have some fun with this.

And remember, on Monday we begin our deconstruction of An Education, a character-driven Oscar-nominated film that teaches us much about story structure in films and novels in which nobody gets blown up or kidnapped.  Just seduced and betrayed.

Donut.  Do nut.  Anybody got a one-liner that one?

Mark Halpin May 27, 2010 at 4:27 pm

Incan descent: one’s Peruvian heritage.

Rachael May 27, 2010 at 10:13 pm

Betray: Be tray – The job description of a human sushi tray girl at a fancy Japanese restaurant.

Ron May 28, 2010 at 2:29 am

@ Chris: minefield/mine field – What the settlers told the Native Americans. …LoL!

Here’s a shot…

Nightclub/Night Club – What women use on cheating husbands after dark.

Foreground/Fore Ground – Your front yard.

Makeup/Make Up – What writers do.

Instance/In Stance – What you REALLY think of someone.

Necktie/Neck Tie – A draw in a neck size contest.

Dateline/Date Line – Where people stand after being stood up.

Crossfire/Cross Fire – What Tony Robbins says to his audience during the fire walk.

Tim Baker May 28, 2010 at 8:46 am

Brandish – Bran dish…something you eat when things aren’t moving along the way you’d like…

Becca May 28, 2010 at 9:06 am

Hi there Larry and everyone reading these,

I can not believe that no one did one for the word in the title but I did..

WORDPLAY~~~ word play~~ The endless distraction that most writers suffer with.
man one: “So what did you do today?”
man two: “Not much, I spent all day word playing.”

and from that definition……

ENDLESS~~~ end less~~ The fear every writer has when their story is done.
“I just finished my story but I am worried that my end is less then is could be.”

I hope you all have a great Memorial weekend.

WEEKEND~~~ week end~~ when a writer can not spell and forgot to use spellchecker
“I just don’t know how to change the week end to my story.”

SPELLCHECKER~~~ spell checker~~ the most dangerous job at whizard school
boy “What happen to Sam?”
girl “Oh, he was the last spell checker and one went really bad. *shutters* “You don’t want to know. Good luck!”

Ok, I think I am done.

Pat Detmer May 28, 2010 at 9:11 am

Heathen: Infidel domestic fowl, burned at the stake for lack of belief. Best with unleavened bread coating and potato side.

Rich Irvin May 28, 2010 at 9:21 am

OK, I’m a hog, so I beg your indulgence:

Tangent / Tan gent – a man with a bronze complexion
Banking / Ban king – forbid a sovereign from entering
Madden / Mad den – a lair of angry bears
Subjoin / Sub join – enlist in the Navy
Address / Ad dress – a hot little cocktail ensemble on sale
Mustache / Must ache – the inevitable consequences of too much exercise
Cowskin / cows kin – a bovine’s relatives
Dotted / Dot ted- put marks all over Theodore
Rancher / Ran Cher – entered Sonny’s ex into a political race
Dozen / Do zen – participate in Buddhist meditation
Wontons / Won tons – hit it big in a sweepstakes
Tricot / Tri cot – a canvas bed for three
Breakfast / Break fast – bolt for the door
Doughs / Do ughs – vocalize your discomfort while lifting weights
Reindeer / Rein deer – steer Santa’s sleigh
Unicorn / Uni corn – the last kernel left on the cob
Onrush / On Rush – atop a conservative talk show host
Subsoil / Sub soil- dirt on your U-boat
Fanfare / Fan fare- cool off your bus tokens
Panties / Pan ties- things to make your cookware look more formal
Dogwoods / Dog Woods – follow Tiger everywhere he goes
Drawstring / Draw string – sketch twine
Crowbar / Crow bar – a place where blackbirds like to hang out after work
Beatable / Beat Able – what Cain did
Leadership / Leader ship – the first boat in an armada
Hurtfully / Hurt fully – ache from head to toe
Seemed / See med – espy your prescribed capsule
Cowhide / Cow hide – what a scared Guernsey does
Pigeon / Pig eon- an eternity for Porkie
Button-down / Butt on down – sitting on a goose

Werner May 28, 2010 at 10:41 am

Aboriginal/ Ab original: What your gut looked like before a lifetime of drinking beer.

Werner May 28, 2010 at 10:49 am

Oh to hell with it, this one’s from my childhood.

Himalaya – Mom baked him-a-laya cake

While I’m at it, let’s do…
Child hood – Billy the Kid

Sandy May 28, 2010 at 1:16 pm

Block ade = What the kids called the lemonade stand

John Griggs May 29, 2010 at 12:34 am

Rapport = Rap Port – to sing rhyming lyrics on the left side of a boat.

Slamming = Slam Ming – chant heard at a Chinese wrestling match.

Disabling = Disa Bling – term used when you’re showing off your flashy jewelery.

Walter May 29, 2010 at 5:19 am

ZOOLOGICAL: Zoo Logical (ever reasoned like an animal before? The outcome is usually logical, but in the level of the denizens of zoos.)

While you were busy trying to win one of Larry’s books, I was busy doing my own wordplay, which is, in fact, zoo logical. Look below:

why do we say [abomiNATION instead of abomiCOUNTRY]; [inSULT instead of inSUGAR]; [misTAKE instead of Mis KATE]?

Now that’s zoo logical.

Walter May 29, 2010 at 5:28 am

When I hear WARSAW (war saw), I wonder if the capital of Poland is some kind of WMD.

Walter May 29, 2010 at 12:08 pm

HOGWASH: Hog wash (bath a pig)

COSSET: Cos set (a group of cosines)

CONNOTE: Con note (a deceitful/tricky note)

ISLAND: Is land (how my kid brother pronunces island)

INWARD: In ward (inside a hospital ward)

ZIPCODE: Zip code (Larry, don’t you think we’d have more female hackers if our slacks’ zips came with codes?)

COMPACT: Comp act (the act of giving something such as a ticket away free)

RATBAG (an unpleasant person): Rat bag (a bag for stuffing rats)

RATTAN: Rat tan (imagine a rat going for sun tanning)

RAT-ARSED: Rat arsed (with arse like that of a rat)

CHARLIES (stupid persons): Char lies (if we could char/burn lies, the world would be a better place.)

Paul Melamud May 29, 2010 at 6:29 pm

Hey, the rules said 2-syllables, are you allowing multiple?

Well, either way… here’s what I came up with today:

firedrake – (v) having let someone go for immoral workplace behavior; (n) the person thusly axed
firmamental – see hospital, a psychiatric
flippant – toddler pajamas with snaps in the rear to allow nighttime toilet usage
marmot – the act of breaking your word
mastiff – zombie’s mother
passport – road rule for getting by slow-moving vehicles
seven-score – the Borg implant in a Voyager crew member
zealot – farm for Indian corn
zoomed – fast-acting horse pill

One of these (you can guess which) led to a three-fer. I offer it here for amusement, as your rules asked only for a 2-word split:

bullmastiff – being cowed during a petty argument with one’s mother

John Griggs May 29, 2010 at 11:43 pm

Speedometer = Speedo Meter – A device used to measure underwear.

John Griggs May 30, 2010 at 1:16 am

Booking – Boo King – to express displeasure for a member of royalty.

Dipthong – Dip Thong – to immerse an undergarment in a liquid such as water, guacamole, or Cheez Whiz.

jennifer Stevenson May 30, 2010 at 1:49 am

Dogma. Dog Ma: A female dog (birch) who is nursing puppies.

jennifer Stevenson May 30, 2010 at 1:50 am

Correction…bitch. Not birch. You get the idea….

Walter May 30, 2010 at 1:20 pm

ONSET (the beginning of something): ON SET (a place where a film or television program is filmed)

SPOILAGE (waste resulting from something being spoiled) : SPOIL AGE (the average age when kids begin to learn bad things)

WARRING (at war with each other): WAR RING (a battle field like a boxing ring)

WARRANT (a legal document often used by cops): WAR RANT (talk or complaint about war. Or perhap battlecry)

RAPID (happening or done very quickly and in a short time): RAP ID (an identity card given to rap artists)

WAGON: Wag on (to continue waging)

Kelly May 30, 2010 at 8:26 pm

After I quit rolling on the floor at some of these, I have two.

Cat Astro Phe- what it costs to send kitty into outer space.
Hay Wire- it holds bales together.

Thanks for the chuckles.

Gabi May 31, 2010 at 12:56 pm

re-fer: what your cat does to your newly cleaned slacks.
re-ferral: what your cat gives your clothes so you won’t forget them

susan June 3, 2010 at 8:59 am

you have some great responses here to your contest! I followed you over from ProBlogger… and since I do a little proofreading for a living, I couldn’t help but notice you have a couple of typos – defintion (twice!) Sorry to be critical, really loved your post!

Jim June 3, 2010 at 10:28 am

Manage – Man Age – The actual age of a man, actually ever man, which is that of a Jr. High boy.

michel June 3, 2010 at 6:21 pm


Anamaris June 4, 2010 at 5:23 am

I’m not a writer, just a foodie blogger (sometimes), but I came across this post thanks to my PB subscription. Great suggestions, I am now rocking my brain to figure out how to implement some of them.
In the meantime, I’ll play with the grownups:
Teen aged: Had a teen? Then you’ve Aged.
Rep tile: someone who sells tile
En tire: where your rims go

Booyah's Momma June 4, 2010 at 9:29 am

1. abstain (ab stain): What I found on the front of my shirt after an unfortunate mishap changing my son’s diaper.
2. teepee (tee pee): The result of #1.
3. breakfast (break fast): What I will do next time to avoid the trajectory.

Larry June 4, 2010 at 3:13 pm

nothing — “no thing”: definition of a eunoch.

Karen June 4, 2010 at 4:43 pm

This is not exactly your word play but it happens all the time so I couldn’t resist:

Nunavut ( ᓄᓇᕗᑦ) is the largest and newest federal territory of Canada. – It’s literal meaning is “our land” with the emphasis in the Inuit mind firmly on the our. Properly said in Inuktitut it sounds like new/na /voot.

If you listen to most people in the rest of Canada, they say it as none/of/it. Exactly how much the Inuit plan to give us.

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