Staycation or bleisure? Travel loves made-up words

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 9, 2014 at 10:23 am •  Published: April 9, 2014
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NEW YORK (AP) — Hotels advertise "bleisure" packages. The Thai Tourism Authority is promoting "honeyteering." And a Mississippi TV anchor told advocates of gay equality to "go on gaycation."

Whatever you're doing on vacation, chances are there's a made-up word to describe it. Combine honeymoon and volunteering, you get honeyteering. Combine business and leisure, you get bleisure. Add glamour to a camping trip with wine, steak and scented candles, and you're glamping.

Lexicographers call these blended words portmanteaus. The travel industry doesn't have a monopoly on them — think "brunch."

But they do "come in handy in a business sector where there's often a need to come up with clever marketing spin," said Ben Zimmer, executive producer of Vocabulary.com and language columnist for The Wall Street Journal. "It's niche marketing. You're trying to appeal to different sectors of the public: 'Well, we have a special kind of tourism for you and it has a special name.'"

Other examples: voluntourism, ecotourism and mancations — the latter, describing a guys' getaway, popularized by Vince Vaughn in the 2006 movie "The Break-Up." And while the word honeymoon is centuries-old, one of the first cited references to babymoons — a couple's trip before the first baby — was in a 2004 promotion for luxury resorts.

Sometimes heavy marketing can make these blends seem like "stunt words," said Katherine Connor Martin, head of U.S. Dictionaries for Oxford University Press, which publishes the Oxford English Dictionary. "They're so cute and self-conscious."

Their overuse can even lead to a backlash, as with staycations, a term that often elicits an "UGH!" response — mainly because most of us would rather go away than stay home if we could afford it. The word staycations was used before the recession, but it was only when people cut back on vacations during the economic slowdown that destinations started using the term to market themselves to locals.

"It was trying to take a bleak economic picture and make it into something happy," Zimmer said. "It had a euphemistic sound."

The suffix "-cation" is also well-suited to blends, especially if you come up with a term that rhymes with vacations. And so, in addition to staycations and gaycations, there are nakations at nudist colonies, hurrications if you leave town ahead of a storm, and playcations, just for fun.