When Two Words Become One: The Economy And Wit Of Portmanteaus

 

chortle_v2

On my way to brunch last Sunday, I saw a cockapoo and had to chortle. Not at the dog, but at the word: cockapoo?

It’s a portmanteau, a word that blends parts of two or more words to create a new one. Did you catch the three portmanteaus in my first paragraph? Cockapoo combines cocker spaniel and poodle. Brunch is a mash-up of breakfast and lunch. Chortle mixes chuckle and snort.

Portmanteau is the French word for a large traveling case that opens into two equal compartments. The word derives from porter (to carry) + manteau (cloak). Lewis Carroll coined portmanteau as a linguistic term to describe the blended words he created in Through The Looking GlassThese words have “two meanings packed up into one word.” Examples include slithy (slimy + lithe), galumph (gallop + triumph), and mimsy (miserable + flimsy).

If Carroll is the father of portmanteaus, James Joyce is the master. His novels Ulysses and Finnegans Wake are filled with them – saddenly (sad + suddenly), shim (she + him), individuone (individual + one), pornosophical (pornographic + philosophical) …

Portmanteaus are inventive and useful. They allow us to describe our world with accuracy, economy, and wit:

> advertorial (advertising + editorial)

> blog (web + log)

> Bridezilla (bride + Godzilla)

> Chunnel (channel + tunnel)

> guesstimate (guess + estimate)

> pixel (picture + element)

> slurve (slider + curve)

> smog (smoke + fog)

At the Walsh house, we have our favorite portmanteaus. Bromance (brothers + romance) describes the affection that our sons have for one another. Vork (veal + pork) is what I often serve for dinner on Sundays – cutlets that look like veal but are actually made from pounded pork medallions. Guydea (guy + idea) indicates the thinking of a man who decides to take on an ambitious do-it-yourself project at the most inopportune time, i.e., rewiring the dining room chandelier hours before guests arrive on Thanksgiving Day.

My wife, Deb, gets the credit for guydea, though I don’t know where her inspiration came from. I’m a reluctant DIY-er at best, and avoid re-wiring at all costs.

Especially after that Thanksgiving.

Do you have a favorite portmanteau? One you invented? Please share in the comments below.

4 Comments

Well, my “gaydar” was WAY off for a good part of my twenties. Not that there was anything wrong with that.

Hey John – Lisa once told me she didn’t like the insinuendo in my voice – it’s now one of my favorite words

Leave a Reply

Name and email address are required. Your email address will not be published.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title="" rel=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <pre> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong> 

%d bloggers like this: