I recently came across a Twitter bio in which someone described himself as a webrepreneur¹. The meaning was clear enough (someone who does enterprising things on the Internet), but the pronunciation—whew! I tweeted about it and got a response from someone who mentioned ecopreneur as another tongue-twisty job title, and that reminded me of an even chewier mouthful: philanthropreneur ("someone who brings an entrepreneurial approach to philanthropy"), a word that's been around since 1997.
We may be in a recession, or a mancession, but there are plenty of jobs for -preneur, a suffix that at first blush has little to recommend it for English word-building. It's often misspelled and even more frequently mispronounced, as though the first or second R weren't there. It's a loan word from French, the noun form of entreprendre, "to undertake." Nevertheless, an entrepreneur has never been (or not only been) what we might call an undertaker: someone who manages a funeral business. "The word first crossed the Channel c.1475, but did not stay," the Online Etymology Dictionary informs us. It had better success in 1828, when it re-landed in England and became a compact way of saying "one who undertakes or manages." It was sometimes used as a synonym for "capitalist."
At some point in the 1990s, that definition became too generic, and entrepreneur began giving birth to a slew of enterprising neologisms, some using a long-form morpheme, -trepreneur, and some truncating it to -preneur. The term for art for inventive blends like these is cran-morph, from the cran- of cranberry that floated free and formed cran-apple and cran-grape. Double-Tongued Dictionary has captured some of the cran-preneurs; the dates in parentheses are when the term was first spotted in print:
Alterpreneur (5/16/05): someone motivated by a lifestyle change to start a business.
Con-trepreneur (12/20/04): an enterprising con woman (in Kenya, apparently).²
Copreneur (2/10/06): a spouse who goes into business with his or her marriage partner.
Grantepreneur (12/9/94) or grantrepreneur (8/16/00)³: someone whose business plan chiefly involves government grants. The first variation originally appeared in Ireland, the second in Canada.
Innerpreneur (3/26/09): an entrepreneur motivated by personal growth.
Momtrepreneur (12/9/06): a young mother juggling home duties with a home business.
Mama-preneur (3/30/06): see momtrepreneur. ("Mama-preneur" is considerably easier to pronounce, but appears to be less popular, if numbers of Google hits are to be believed.)
Pastorpreneur (2/23/06): a religious leader of a U.S. mega-church; a minister who offers wealth-creation advice.
I fully expected to see mantrepreneur (a male entrepreneur? a businessperson specializing in bromance?) on the list. But no! Not only is mantrepreneur nearly missing in action from Google, but the mantrepreneur.com domain was available when I checked late Monday. Go for it, guys!
Meanwhile, my own research turned up a passel of -preneurs, some hyphenated, some not:
And a tribe of harder-to-pronounce -trepreneurs:
I-trepreneur ("a mlogish blogazine," it says here)
Oeno-trepreneur (that would be Gary Vaynerchuk, wine maven)
Teen-trepreneur (a Monopoly-like board game for—you guessed it—teens)
Untrepreneur (my favorite!)
Vetrepreneur (surprisingly, not a veterinarian)
I searched in vain for zoopreneur, which sounds zippy and fun. Or how about a Seinfeld-ish soupreneur? Hélas, rien. And I was disappointed to find only a handful of papapreneurs, popreneurs, dadpreneurs, and daddypreneurs compared to all the mom- and mama-preneurs.
The last and least of the -preneurs may be nontrepreneur6 . Suggested slogan: Just don't do it.
Have you seen any unusual -preneur blends? Leave a comment; please include a citation or a link.
¹By the way, the Twitter fellow isn't the only one calling himself a webrepreneur. In fact, there's a book, The Webrepreneur's Guide to Funding Your Business. Good luck selling it on the radio! There are many more people calling themselves webpreneurs. One less syllable makes it somewhat easier to pronounce, although the -bp- combination still twists the tongue.
² Urban Dictionary gives another definition: "An online seller of goods on eBay, Amazon, or other such virtual pawn shops."
³ No doubt of special interest to Grant Barrett, Doubletongued's editor.
4 I have no idea what this means.
5 Surprisingly, not an organization for soldiers of fortune.
6 See Mike Pope's blog Evolving English II for more on nontrepreneur and other -preneur cran-morphs. I especially like "Don Juantrepreneur: No business plan, but still charms women into providing funding," from a blog post by James Britt.