In the NYT, in an interesting article about artworks damaged by Hurricane Sandy, a conservator is quoted speaking of her studio filled with drying art:
I’m assuming here that she meant “laundromat,” a portmanteau word (“laundry” + “automat[ic]”) that, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary was originally a proprietary term coined (no pun intended) in the 1940s by Westinghouse to stand for “automatic coin-operated laundry” (and likely inspired as well by the once-famed Automat restaurants).
Two things about this quote interest me. (1) “Laundry mat” is a eggcorn* of “laundromat,” so it’s an eggcorn of a portmanteau word. This is the kind of linguistic evolution in action that makes word people go a little giddy and need to sit down for a minute. (2) What is the NYT policy on correcting a direct quote? No [sic]? Or is the editorial policy in play here to assume that “laundry mat” has become a common enough variant that readers will get the simile?** Or (heavens!) did that one just slip by the copyeditors?
*Eggcorn – “a word or phrase that results from a mishearing or misinterpretation of another, an element of the original being substituted for one that sounds very similar or identical (e.g., tow the line instead of toe the line).” (via the New Oxford American Dictionary).