Sunday, January 24, 2010

Portmanteau Words from the Brilliant LC

Did you snortle as you read the title of this post? Are you feeling like Scrooge after a burst of holiday spending? If so, perhaps you guessed the identity of LC? It's Lewis Carroll - who remains a favorite for so many reasons. Among his myriad legacies is this one: the Portmanteau Word. In Through the Looking Glass Humpty Dumpty explains to Alice that "slithy" means "lithe and slimy" and he gives these words that are created from two words the name portmanteau because the two meanings are packed into one word.

Carroll's contemporaries were accustomed to packing their clothes into portmanteaus - so this definition was more clever for them than it might be for modern readers. Many portmanteau words are familiar for us though: snortle, of course, is a snort/chortle which is really a second-generation Portmanteau because chortle is a combination of chuckle and snort.

Charles Dickens, who is known for his memorable character names, created Scrooge from 'screw' and 'gouge'. I love the painting below which imagines Dickens dreaming of his characters. It's unfinished which adds to the dream-like quality. Perhaps it captures the exact moment when a new portmanteau word is drifting into his mind . . .

Here's a brief list of some familiar portmanteau words:

Yowl = yell & howl (okay, this may not be widely used, but at our house it's heard pretty often!)
Docudrama = documentary & drama
Edutainment = education & entertainment (usually weighted toward the entertainment!)
Breathalyzer = breathe & analyzer
Tanzania = Tanganyika & Zanzibar
Smog = smoke & fog
Emoticon = emotion & icon :-)

Can you think of others? Perhaps you've coined your own? Must galumph away to watch a rockumentary that's simulcast in several countries - I hope it's not just agitprop!

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