Friday, August 9, 2013

My Solution to the Back Acne Dilemma

Heads up: This post will not offer you a miracle cure for your back acne. That’s between you and your dermatologist. Instead, this post is about the word bacne — or backne, depending on your preference.

back acne bacne backne

This week I found myself texting the word backne — and yes, my SMS output is that sexy — when I realized I had no idea how the word should be spelled. My first inclination was how I spelled in the previous sentence, with the “k,” but then it occurred to me that bacne might be better, if vaguely evocative of Greek mythology. I’d heard the word, sure, and while I think it’s the best blended word to describe an unfortunate medical condition since cankle, I don’t read articles about skin care, professional sports or bodybuilding and therefore had never actually seen the word in print. Unable to decide on backne or bacne, I took to Twitter and to Facebook.

What I found out:
  • Apparently the trend at the moment is to use bacne. Thanks Mike “Pizza Back” Piazza!
  • However, a Google search for bacne yields 207,000 hits, while a search for backne gets 817,000.
  • Weirdly, if you search for backne, Google asks if you meant bacne, even though the latter is more popular. Does Google prefer bacne because it is more popular at the moment?
  • Doing Google searches for back acne yields image results that I find unsavory.
  • Even though I don’t hesitate on how to pronounce acne, I do with bacne. Is it a soft “c”? Is it “back-nay”? Is it a type of fancy bacon?
  • I don’t think “The spelling doesn’t make the pronunciation clear” is a good enough complaint in English, a language that has non-intuitively pronounced words like awry and chaos.
  • It seems less likely that you’d mispronounce backne, and it makes it clearer what you’re referring to right off the bat. That said, it emphasizes the word back in this portmanteau over acne. Does that mean back is more important, semantically speaking?
  • In the end, the Twitter responses almost unanimously recommended backne. Facebook initially said bacne but then the tide turned in favor of backne. Linguistic logic seemed to win out. That may be a first for social media.
  • There’s also back-knee, but that seems like an even stranger medical condition.
And that’s how you decide it’s backne instead of bacne. #TeamBackne.

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