First there was ‘Grexit’ , which hasn’t happened. Then there was ‘Brexit’, which is probably going to happen. Some think that, depending on the outcome of the French presidential election, we might be talking about ‘Frexit’ before the year is out. And in the UK there is occasional talk of something called ‘Irexit’ which in the imaginations of some Brexiteers might just resolve some of the problems Great Britain has decided to visit on the northern and southern parts of the island next door. At this point I say ‘enough.’

It’s not that the idea of the Republic of Ireland leaving the EU, the single market and the customs union because its larger neighbour has decided to is ridiculous. It is ridiculous, but if talking up the possibilty keeps the Brexiteers happy, where’s the harm? As long as nobody takes them seriously of course.

My problem with ‘Irexit’ is that as a coinage, it doesn’t work. I have never heard anybody say it out loud and if I try to pronounce it I can see why. Try for yourself. Not only does it require unpleasant contortions of the speech apparatus to enunciate, it fails at a phonological level because it doesn’t resemble the words it is supposed to recall. It has three syllables, not two. It begins with a vowel (a diphthong at that). However you pronounce it, Irexit does not sound like Brexit or Grexit.

Sticking '-exit' on to the first two letters of a country name is not enough. In order to form a term resembling 'Brexit'- that is a two-syllable portmanteau word ending in ‘-exit’ using the first two letters of the country name- either there must be no vowel in the first two letters or that vowel must not only be an ‘e’ but an ‘e’ representing the same phoneme as the ‘e’ in Brexit (which rules out Germany, for example).

Thus there are eight EU countries where an ~exit portmanteau term can be formed by adding ‘–exit’ to the first two letters of the country name: Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. However Slovakia and Slovenia have identical ~exit portmanteaux, which would create intolerable confusion.There are a further three countries where a two syllable portmanteau can be formed by adding ‘-xit’ to the first two letters of the country name: Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands. (The Czech Republic could also be placed in the latter group.)

In all other cases it is impossible to form a two-syllable ~exit portmanteau. If these countries want to leave the EU we will need to find some other way to refer to the process. Meanwhile we can be thankful that as things stand, it doesn’t look like ‘Irexit’ is a word anyone apart from the odd Brexiteer is going to have much use for.