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As a big fan of inflationary language, I have a soft spot in my heart for words like ‘ponthreen’, where the ‘too’ sound in pontoon gets bumped up to a three, on account of rising prices, of course.

If you Google/Bing/Duck for ponthreen, though, there’s very little aside from a mention or three in reddit comments. I consider this a travesty and injustice and all sorts of mean, nasty things, not because ponthreen is a fun word to say (though it is!), but because a subset of pontoon boat enthusiasts and especially retailers will call a pontoon boat with three pontoons a ‘tritoon’.

Clearly this cannot stand.

Pontoons are the tube-y bits

A “pontoon boat” is a boat made with one or more pontoons, which can interchangeably be called pontoons, floats, or tubes. Obviously, despite the fun rhyme, you can’t call it a “float boat” because any boat that doesn’t float isn’t a very good boat (please don’t @ me about submarines technically being boats or something). I’d assume there’s a good linguistic/marketing reason that “tube boat” lost out to “pontoon boat”, but here’s where we are. An illustration of a stereotypical pontoon boat:

A pontoon boat, with text overlaying to show two pontoons with a boat deck on top

If each tube/float is itself a pontoon, and ‘pon-‘ is not a Latin or Greek numeral prefix in the singular or any other number, then you can’t chop up the word to end up with junk like:

  1. unitoon or monotoon
  2. dutoon or ditoon (which would be a standard pontoon boat as we envision them)
  3. tritoon
  4. quadritoon or tetratoon
  5. quinquetoon or pentatoon
  6. sexatoon or hexatoon

…and so on.

A “pontoon boat” is a pontoon boat, regardless of the number of pontoons that support its deck(s). This ‘tritoon’ usage clearly must be stopped.

It might be palatable, since single-pontoon boats are exceedingly rare to my knowledge, to call a pontoon boat with two pontoons a “pontoon boat” without qualification, and then boats with more pontoons could be prefixed (with or without a hyphen) like so:

  • tri-pontoon boat
  • “quad-pontoon boat” or “four-pontoon boat”
  • …or something like that

But tritoon is just wrong. Wrong wrong wrong.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em

Since both tritoon and ponthreen are equally wrong for describing a pontoon boat with three floats, and tritoon is already more commonly-used than ponthreen, I believe the only recourse is to now spread the word, literally, and get people calling them ponthreens.


(Also, not nearly enough people include an opening rant tag)

P.S. In an alternate universe, “tube boat” became common usage, and it didn’t take long for the ‘b’ sounds to compmanteau (a portmanteau of ‘compound’ and ‘portmanteau’) themselves into ‘tuboat’. Some silly midwestern boat dealer would then, in an insult to alternate-universe Brad, call a tuboat with three tubes a triboat. You can see this unfold in the cutscenes of Everything Everywhere All at Once.