How to pronounce portmanteau
Sometimes the English language fails to yield the perfect word for a particular concept. In these situations, only a phrase or lengthy explanation will deliver an accurate description of the subject at hand. The result is often the creation of an entirely new word. When that new word is formed by combining parts of two or more distinct forms (such as webinar from web and seminar), the new word is known as a portmanteau. If you’re wondering how to pronounce portmanteau, we have provided an audio link to the article below.
The Middle French term portmanteau is derived from the travelling bag of the same name, made of stiff leather, which opens in two equal parts. It was first used to describe blended words by the author Lewis Carroll in his novel Through the Looking-Glass. The book featured the nonsense poem Jabberwocky, and when Humpty Dumpty had to explain the meaning of the unusual words to Alice, he refers to them as portmanteaus:
“You see, it’s like a portmanteau—there are two meanings packed up into one word.”
Portmanteaus differ from compound words in that they feature truncations of other words. Compound words, such as anyway and blacklist, feature two or more words in full.
Portmanteau film words and the world of entertainment
As they are usually created to describe a new situation or concept for which there isn’t an existing word, portmanteaus often become buzzwords and are soon absorbed into the language. The new words fall into common usage, and it is remarkable how quickly almost everyone understands them.
Most people know that Bollywood (Bombay and Hollywood) refers to the Indian film industry and that a romcom is a romantic comedy. But did you know that Pokémon is a portmanteau? It’s a blend of the words pocket and monster.
The entertainment industry has also inspired the portmanteaus biopic (biography and picture), mockumentary (mock and documentary) and telethon (television and marathon). Not to mention infomercial (information and commercial) and edutainment (education and entertainment). The media also tend to magic up portmanteaus to describe celebrity couples, hence Brangelina (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie). Those celebrity couples may use Botox to improve their looks, and Botox is a portmanteau formed from botulism and toxin.
A Portmanteau film is a term for a film genre that is made up of several short stories linked together by a joint event.
Portmanteaus for new tech
It should come as no surprise that the tech world is littered with many a portmanteau phrase. As new technologies develop, new words are required to reference them. Those words are often portmanteaus, and these outnumber both abbreviations and acronyms. It is difficult to decide whether they are the result of fertile imaginations or the lack of them!
Visitors to Disney theme parks have always marvelled at the animatronics that feature on the rides. The term refers to mechanical puppets and is derived from the words animation and electronics. Cyborg is a blend of cybernetic and organism while intercom was created by fusing internal and communication.
Other tech portmanteaus include malware (malicious and software), modem (modulator and demodulator) and pixel (picture and element). Of course, these days, you can add the letter “e” for electronic to just about any new service or item to create a suitable portmanteau (email, e-cigarette, e-commerce, e-book etc.).
Portmanteaus in the news
Newsworthy events and trends are often given memorable monikers, and these are usually portmanteaus. There’s nothing like a good portmanteau if you want a name to lodge itself firmly in the public consciousness. When Peter Wilding, the founder and director of the British Influence think tank, came up with the word Brexit, it was seized upon immediately by the media. Britain’s exit from the EU has rarely been called anything else since. Stagflation (stagnation and inflation) and staycation (stay at home and vacation) are also portmanteaus that are now in common usage.
Less obvious portmanteaus
Many portmanteaus are recent innovations that may not be considered to be real words by English language pedants. Other examples have been with us for so long that most of us probably wouldn’t recognise them to be portmanteaus. For example, did you know that dumbfounded is a blend of dumb and confounded? Or that electrocute was formed from electricity and execute? Splatter, meaning wet marks, was created from splash and spatter, while squander is a portmanteau formed by blending scatter and wander.
Dogs breed portmanteaus
So-called designer dogs have become trendy choices and are usually given breed names which are portmanteaus. These monikers are handy as they are both descriptive and easy to remember. For example, a cross between a pug and beagle is known as a puggle (you have to love that), while the offspring of a golden retriever and a poodle is a goldendoodle. You could also invest in a cockapoo (cocker spaniel and poodle) or a sproodle (springer spaniel and poodle). There are now dozens of doodles, oodles and poos with more to follow, one would think.
Portmanteaus are fascinating, aren’t they? It’s amazing how many English words turn out to be portmanteaus, and there are more being created every day. Even brand names are often portmanteaus. For example, Velcro was created from the words velvet and crochet. But, on the other hand, the brand name Spam, as in the tinned cold meat, is nothing more than a fusion of the words spiced and ham.
If you need a new name or term, the easiest course of action is to perform a linguistic cut and shut. Pick two words that seem appropriate and put them together. You can then take some time out to chillax or to enjoy twerking your way to the bank, knowing that you are a brainiac who has nailed new vocabulary that really works. See what we did there?
Have you come across any weird and wonderful portmanteaus that you can’t get out of your head? Let us know!