“Most kids want to immolate their role model.”

Would mentioning Lance Armstrong in this context be a cheap shot?

I don’t think it’s a typo we’re dealing with here. It may be viewed as a kind of portmanteau word, in that it’s a combination of two other words; but since it results not in a new meaning but in a meaning the opposite of the one intended, it doesn’t really qualify for suitcasery.

Lewis Carroll described (invented) the portmanteau word; I think he’s left it up to me, though, to describe (invent?) the crash-collision word, wherein two perfectly good words collide and produce a disaster.

My student was thinking, I believe, of kids who want to imitate their role models…AND kids who want to emulate their role models. Before she could stop them, the two terms simultaneously rushed for the gap in the sentence and collided, in the fiery crash of immolate.

That at least would be a reasonable explanation of what happened, and a reassuring alternative to the possibility that torching one’s role model is the next step in Freudian development, right after bedding one’s mother and murdering one’s father. Or maybe this immolation is a combination of mother-rape and father-murder, two role models for the price of one.

Either way, it’s one more argument for keeping matches away from children.

Remember the chilling moment in The Two Towers when one of Sauron’s warriors proclaims, “The Age of Man is at an end; the Age of the Orc is at hand”? —or words to that effect, anyway.

Well, can the English teachers of the world be blamed for hearing, echoing late at night in their fevered minds, this equally chilling phrase—”The Age of the Jabberwock is come!”—?


About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

3 responses to ““Most kids want to immolate their role model.”

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