LawProse Lesson #194: Portmanteau words.

LawProse Lesson #194: Portmanteau words.

Portmanteau words. A portmanteau is a type of luggage with two separate sections. A portmanteau word is formed by combining the sounds and meanings of two different words. Linguists also call such a word a blend. Most portmanteaus merge the initial part of one word with the end of another: smog (smoke + fog) and infomercial (information + commercial). Others combine one complete word with part of another: docudrama (documentary + drama) and palimony (pal + alimony). Sometimes words with the same sounds are combined to create a pun: shampagne (sham + champagne). Lewis Carroll coined the phrase “portmanteau word” (or had Humpty Dumpty do it for him) in Through the Looking-Glass (1871). He also popularized portmanteau words there with his love of wordplay—his poem “Jabberwocky” is one of the most famous nonsense poems in the English language. Among the blends he coined are chortle (chuckle + snort), galumph (gallop + triumph), and slithy (slimy + lithe). Notice that chortle and slithy are created by inserting part of one word into the middle of another. The popularity of portmanteau words continues to grow. Below is a short list of some popular coinages. For a more detailed collection, see Dick Thurner, Portmanteau Dictionary: Blend Words in the English Language, Including Trademarks and Brand Names (1993). contorts (contract + tort) dockominium (boat dock + condominium) drizmal (drizzle + dismal) emoticon (emotion + icon) fantabulous (fantastic + fabulous) ginormous (gigantic + enormous) glumpy (gloomy + grumpy) jazzercise (jazz + exercise) liger (lion + tiger) sexting (sex + texting) slumlord (slum + landlord) televangelist (television + evangelist) And of course every major storm now seems to demand its own over-the-top portmanteau, like Snowmageddon and Snowzilla. Further reading: Dick Thurner, Portmanteau Dictionary: Blend Words in the English Language, Including Trademarks and Brand Names (1993). Garner’s Modern American Usage 644 (3d ed. 2009). Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage 687 (3d ed. 2011).

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