With New York leading the charge, our urban neighborhoods have been linguistically sliced and diced into countless SoHos, Tribecas, Nolitas, and Somas, but left to their own devices, real estate marketers are going to push this trend into ever more ridiculous dimensions. Witness “ProCro,” a new coinage for the mash-up of the New York neighborhoods Prospect Heights and Crown Heights. New York Magazine has a good article about this ProCro business, Hell No, Portmanteaux, with a nice summary of what portmanteau words are and from whence they sprang (Down the rabbit hole, Alice!):
The term describes “two meanings packed up into one word,” as Humpty Dumpty tells Alice. The result may be efficient (pluot, podcast), inane (sexpert), or depraved (cremains). At their most effective, portmanteaux are absorbed into the lexicon so smoothly as to become unrecognizable (electrocute, motorcade) as the Frankensteins they are. At bottom, they should describe a new thing (a test guesstimate fails), and, indeed, facilitate its existence. Large servings of French toast eaten at noon were just that, until someone came up with brunch.
The ProCro portmanteau, a true civic blivet, has pushed enough buttons as to make one New York State assemblyman, Hakeem Jeffries, a Brooklyn Democrat, push for regulation that would force new neighborhood names to be approved by the city. The article makes the fine point that this is unnecessary, as language itself will moderate the practice of overcoinage (overcoin? overcoining?):
Still, regulating such coinages seems unnecessary—not when the language does that on its own. ProCro, after all, sounds like a name for a mixed-use fertility clinic–cryogenics lab. Who’d want to call such a place home?
And that’s what it all comes down to: Do I really want to tell people that I come from a place called “ProCro”? Soho, sure, and Tribeca too. But not ProCro. The other deciding factor here is that successful neighborhood names tend to come about organically over time, driven from the ground up as street slang, not from the top down as a marketing initiative.