Portmanteaus: They’re a bash!

[A little note: I apologize for the lapse in posting. The last few weeks I have been on vacation, and then I started a new job. It’s been fun and hectic, but now I’m back bringing you grammar and language goodness twice a week. –Erin]


portmanteau: a blend of two or more words that make a new word

What is a portmanteau?
It’s a clever thing we humans do. We smash one word into another to make a new word, often to fill a new need. When we do this, the result is called a portmanteau. The word smog is good example. It is a combination of the words smoke and fog, and it filled the need for a word to describe that gross pollution that hangs above our cities. Spork is another neat one. Is there really a better term to describe that mashup of spoon and fork found in school cafeterias across the nation?

In both smog and spork, the two words used to form the portmanteau help describe the new word, which is a quality of portmanteaus. Also, most of us are familiar with these terms and may recognize that they are portmanteaus, perhaps because they are newer to our vocabulary. However, there are many words, so ingrained, that it’s less obvious they are indeed portmanteaus. A few of my favorites are bash (bang + smash), flounder (flounce + blunder), and meld (melt + weld).

History of portmanteau
In French portemanteau (spelled with that extra e in the middle) means a hat rack or a coat tree. But similar to the way portmanteaus repurpose older words, literary contrarian Lewis Carroll reinvented a meaning for this French word. In his book Through the Looking-Glass Carroll’s character Humpty Dumpty explains, “You see it’s like a portmanteau—there are two meanings packed up into one word.” Humpty Dumpty also uses portmanteaus of his own, such as “slithy,” which he says means “lithe and slimy” and “mimsy,” which is a combination of “flimsy and miserable.”

List of portmanteaus
Here’s a list of portmanteaus. Some are pretty funny (bromance); some are more well known (motel); and some are so rooted in our language many may not be aware they are portmanteaus (humongous). Enjoy!

portmanteau combination of
advertorial advertisement + editorial
alphanumeric alphabetic + numeric
bash bang + smash
bionic biology + electronic
biopic biographical + picture
bit binary + digit
blog web + log
bodacious bold + audacious
bootylicious booty + delicious
breathalyzer breath + analyzer
bromance bro + romance
brunch breakfast +lunch
camcorder camera +recorder
carjack car + hijack
chillaxing chilling + relaxing
Chunnel channel + tunnel
cyborg cybernetic + organism
docudrama documentary + drama
dumbfound dumb + confound
ebonics ebony + phonics
email electronic + mail
emoticon emotion + icon
fantabulous fantastic + fabulous
fanzine fan + magazine
flounder flounce + blunder
frankenfood Frankenstein + food
frenemy friend + enemy
gaydar gay + radar
genome gene + chromosome
ginormous gigantic + enormous
glitz glamour + ritz
glob gob + blob
guesstimate guess + estimate
hazmat hazardous + material
humongous huge + monstrous
infomercial information + commercial
intercom internal + communication
Internet international + network
jazzercise jazz + exercise
jeggings jeans + leggings
knowledgebase knowledge + database
malware malicious + software
mantastic man + fantastic
mathlete math + athlete
meld melt + weld
mockumentary mock + documentary
modem modulator + demodulator
moobs man + boobs
moped motor + pedal
motel motor + hotel
motorcade motor + cavalcade
murse man + purse
nanotech nano + technology
netizen (Inter)net + citizen
netiquette (Inter)net + etiquette
newscast news + broadcast
paratrooper parachute + trooper
Pastafarian pasta + Rastafarian
pixel picture + element
prissy prim + sissy
pulsar pulsating + star
quasar quasistellar + radio
rockumentary rock + documentary
sexpert sex + expert
sexting sex + texting
shareware share + software
shart shit + fart
simulcasting simultaneous + broadcasting
sitcom situation + comedy
skort skirt + short
smog smoke + fog
soundscape sound + landscape
Spanglish Spanish + English
spork spoon + fork
televangelist television + evangelist
telethon telephone + marathon
transponder transmitter + responder
travelogue travel + monologue
turducken turkey, duck, + chicken
tween teen + between
urinalysis urine + analysis
webcast Worldwide Web + broadcast
WiFi wireless + fidelity

Make your own portmanteaus
In my research, I discovered a neato website, called werdmerge.com, where you can create your own portmanteaus. Simply enter a word into the text box and—viola—a list of portmanteaus of your word appears. (It’s magic.)

For kicks, I entered in the word grammar and got great words like grammarillo (what would possibly be my favorite animal), grammorist (what happens when two grammarians fall in love), and grammercy (what copyeditors feel toward authors on a good day).

3 thoughts on “Portmanteaus: They’re a bash!

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