Thursday, May 10, 2007

Do the French have a word for it?

If you start companies not for profit or vision, but to "fulfill a desire to improve the world," what are you? A nontrepeneur. I can't quite get whether Nick Douglas actually coined the word or whether it's been around ... Google currently gets 376 hits, very many of which pertain to the article just linked.

This is another slice-n-dice job (aka cran-morph or "cranberry morpheme"). To belabor this a bit, the opening morpheme, as it were, of entrepreneur is entre- . (We actually know the word entrepreneur in English via the closely related enterprise.) A slightly facile etymology for entrepreneur is given as entre- "between" + prendre "to take".

Anyways. With some reanalysis, we can chop off entre- and be left with preneur, which means ... hmm ... "business-starting person." (Does that sound right?) In effect, the entire meaning of entrepreneur shifts to this new morpheme -preneur, which we can then prefixize al gusto to qualify the meaning.

Some other examples:
It's revealing, I think, that most of these have a hyphen in them, suggesting a self-consciousness in the coinage and perhaps thinking that readers won't get the word unless they make it obvious how they're stitching together the constituent parts.

Note also that, unusually, these formations break the original word into what are etymologically its original roots. (Contrast hamburger, which went from Hamburg+er to Ham+burger). People don't carry etymology around in their heads, and there isn't currently (well, wasn't) any such word or morpheme as preneur in contemporary English, so in a narrow sense this is still a cran-morph. I would guess that the word break falls on historically accurate lines because entre- is sufficiently close to something that sounds like an English prefix to feel like a detachable piece. Which then yields preneur, and here we are.

The example of nontrepreneur is interesting because it borrows -tre- from the original word, unlike the other examples I find. But I don't think there's any subtle semantics to the construction; nontrepreneur (to me) sounds better and is more obvious than nonpreneur, which in fact has a vaguely negative connotation, what do you think?

Riffing on nontrepreneur, James Britt writes a blog entry and, along with commenters, throws out some humorous variations, like the following:
  • Salontrepreneur: Operates out of some hip, literary hangout.
  • Gonetrepreneur: Ex-founder.
  • Don Juantrepreneur: No business plan, but still charms women into providing funding.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to come up with some more of these. As always, the secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions.


Grant Barrett said...

I'm a little late with these, but here are a few more for which I've collected citations:









WordzGuy said...

Wow, these are great!

I'm flummoxed somewhat by my inability to figure out how to do stem searches in Google, a feature I sorely miss. Not, as has probably been noticed, that intensive research is necessarily the hallmark of these posts or anything ... :-)

Em said...

just heard about Olderpreneur this week