Words at Play

Most of the suitcases we use today open at the top to display one large compartment into which we can place our clothes.  Long ago there was a suitcase called a portmanteau (see photo below) that opened at the middle, and gave you two separate compartments into which you could put your belongings.

portmanteau suitcase

Eventually the word “portmanteau” came to also mean a word that was made up of or blended from all or parts of two (or rarely three) words.   The word “portmanteau” is itself a portmanteau composed of two French words: porter (to carry) + manteau (coat).  Portmanteaus are more common than you might think.  For instance, right now you are reading a post from my “blog” (web + log).  And when you say farewell to someone you probably use one of the rare portmanteaus made from three words: “goodbye” (God + be (with) + ye).  By the way, “farewell” is a portmanteau (fare + thee + well, or fare + ye + well).

Here is a list of some commonly used portmanteaus:

  • bash = bold + rash
  • because = by + cause
  • bodacious + bold + audacious
  • brunch = breakfast + lunch
  • cellophane = cellulose + diaphane
  • cheeseburger = cheese + hamburger
  • chump = chunk + lump
  • electrocute = electric + execute
  • flounder = flounce + blunder
  • flurry = flutter + hurry
  • fortnight = fourteen + night
  • glitz = glamor + ritz
  • goon = gorilla + baboon
  • motel = motor + hotel
  • napalm = naphthene + palmitate
  • outpatient = outside + patient
  • prissy = prim + sissy
  • prod = poke + rod
  • smash = smack + mash
  • smog = smoke + fog
  • snark = snide + remark
  • spam = spiced + ham
  • squiggle = squirm + wiggle
  • taxicab = taximeter + cabriolet
  • vitamin = vital + amine

Many of the words that have been added to the English language recently have been portmanteaus.

  • avionics = aviation + electronics
  • biopic = biographical + (motion) picture
  • blaxploitation = black + exploitation
  • breathalyzer = breath + analyzer
  • bromance = brother + romance
  • cosmonaut = cosmic + astronaut
  • cyborg = cybernetic + organism
  • email = electronic + mail
  • fantabulous = fantastic + fabulous
  • fanzine = fan + magazine
  • foon = fork + spoon (see spork)
  • Franglish = French + Engllish
  • globesity = global + obesity
  • guesstimate = guess + estimate
  • hazmat = hazardous + material
  • internet = international + network
  • jazzersize = jazz + exercise
  • mocktail = mock + cocktail
  • seascape = sea + landscape
  • sexting = sex + texting
  • sitcom = situation + comedy
  • skyjack = sky + hijack
  • simulcast = simultaneous + broadcast
  • Spanglish = Spanish + English
  • spork = spoon + fork (see foon)
  • stagflation = stagnation + inflation
  • swipe = sweep + wipe
  • telecast = television + broadcast
  • telethon = television + marathon
  • tween = teen + between
  • webinar = web + seminar
  • wifi = wireless + fidelity

I will end this post with one more portmanteau and a stunning video.  The portmanteau is “liger” which is a blending of lion and tiger – as is the animal you get by crossing a male lion with a female tiger.  You can see a HUGE liger in a National Geographic video here.

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