Red tape measure. Mouse pad thai. Social butterfly kisses. Ear wax eloquent.
Those congruently incongruous phrases are called sweet tooth fairies, and if they make you smile, you’ll want to celebrate them tomorrow:
This Friday, May 20th, is International Sweet Tooth Fairy Day. Just what is a sweet tooth fairy you may be asking? As described by the coiner of the term, Graham Hidderley/Burgess (better known around these parts as gangerh):
A ‘sweet tooth fairy’ is a FIGURE OF SPEECH. You make one up by finding three words where the first and second words form a known expression, and the second and third words form a known expression, and all three words together make a credible expression
Like. . . well . . . like sweet tooth and tooth fairy make sweet tooth fairy.
And like emotional baggage carousel, and magnetic personality disorder, and unrequited love handles.
The sweet tooth fairy has a few subtypes. From our founder Erin McKean’s article on the subject:
There’s the closed sweet tooth fairy, which begins and ends with the same word, such as run dry run,human being human, and school dance school. . . .There’s also the perfect sweet tooth fairy, a naturally-occurring three-word phrase that can be decomposed, as it were, into two separate two-word phrases: mint chocolate chip, white trash bags, ice cream soda, milk chocolate pudding, modern English usage.
There’s even a term for attempts that don’t quite meet the requirements, like remorse code, or landscapegoat. Hidderley/Burgess calls these false teeth fairies.
In honor of International Sweet Tooth Fairy Day, Hidderly/Burgess has launched a website, Away With the Sweet Tooth Fairies, where new STFairies are added regularly (a few of his current favorites include poker face cream, periodic table manners, pop-ad nauseum), you can check out some illustrated STFairies, as well as submit your own.
Of course Wordnik itself has no lack of STFairy lists, from classic STFairies (made by gangerh himself and still growing), to those with “braces and scaffolding”, to STFairy “dominoes”. Make your own list, add to an already existing one, or submit an STFairy to Hidderly/Burgess’ site. Whatever you do, be sure to have a super Sweet Tooth Fairy day!
Oh, you mean “word association football”, as it’s been known since 1973. Ever since “Matching Tie & Handkerchief” was released, pretty much.