by Julia Robinson
Here at ozwords.org we love this hairstyle on AFL player Gary Ablett. The picture was sent to us by Ozworder and long-time contributor Gilbert, not just for its intrinsic interest but because of the name of the style – the skullet.
The skullet has been around since the late 1990s, and is described variously in the print media as ‘mullet sans roof’, ‘mullet fashioned from a receding hairline’, ‘what isn’t on top, he more than makes up for in the back’, and ‘for the follically challenged front with shaggy back’.
Skullet is a blend of two words – no prizes for guessing ‘skull’ and ‘mullet’. It’s a good example of one way in which new words are created. Think of advertorial (advertisement and editorial), Bollywood (Bombay and Hollywood), frenemy (friend and enemy), motel (motor and hotel), and that retro Australian implement for one-handed eating, the splayd (spoon and blade).
Blended words are also known as ‘portmanteau’ words. For those of us old enough to know that a portmanteau is a suitcase (and some may recognise it as the source of the Queensland word port for suitcase), it is an apt description first coined by Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking Glass (1871) who remarked that slithy meaning ‘lithe and slimy’ was ‘like a portmanteau – there are two meanings packed into one word’. The recent fad for naming celebrity duos with a single name is also an example of this phenomenon: Brangelina (Brad and Angelina) is the best-known of these.
Alas, the celebrity phenomenon that is Gary Ablett’s skullet is just too good to be true. Although it is a style waiting to happen, this one is the result of a fleeting photographic moment. Read the caption and look for Ablett’s extra ear. At least we think it’s an ear.