Can You Portmanteau?

I recently read an article in which the word satisficing was used. The word intrigued me. According to the author, satisficing is a combination of sufficing and satisfying.

This led me to investigate if there were other words that were made by combining the sounds and meanings of two existing words. I learned that such a composite word is called a portmanteau. I also discovered that there are many portmanteaus that we use on a daily basis, frequently without realizing that’s what they are.

A portmanteau is typically defined as a large trunk or suitcase that opens into two equal parts. However, Lewis Carroll gave it a new meaning in his book, Through the Looking Glass, when he had Humpty Dumpty say: “Well, ‘slithy’ means “lithe and slimy” and ‘mimsy’ is “flimsy and miserable”. You see it’s like a portmanteau-there are two meanings packed up into one word.”

Some portmanteau words are very familiar and easy to deconstruct:

Backronym: back + acronym

Breathalyzer: breath + analyzer

Brexit: Britain + exit

Camcorder: camera + recorder

Caplet: capsule + tablet

Glamping: glamorous + camping

Infomercial: information + commercial

Infotainment: information + entertainment

Inscape: interior + landscape

Internet: international + network

Malware: malicious + software

Manscaping: man + landscaping

Meld: melt + weld

Motel: motor + hotel

Motorcycle: motorized + bicycle

Netflix: internet + flicks

Palimony: partner + alimony

Pluot: plum + apricot

Simulcast: simultaneous + broadcast

Sitcom: situational + comedy

Tween: teen + between

Wikipedia: wiki + encyclopedia

Some portmanteau words are unfamiliar, but they are still relatively easy to deconstruct:

Affluenza: affluent + influenza

Anticipointment: anticipation + disappointment

Prequiem: preemptive + requiem

Screenager: screen + teenager

Some words are very familiar, but their contributing terms may be surprising- at least, they surprised me. For example, I never knew that the word blog is composed of web and log.

Bit: binary + digit

Chortle: chuckle + snort

Cyborg: cybernetics + organism

Endorphin: endogenous + morphine

Fortnight: fourteen + nights

Gainsay: against + say

Garmin: Garry Burrell + Min Kao

Gerrymander: Gerry + salamander

Goodbye: God + be (with) + ye

Groupon: group + coupon

Hassle: haggle + tussle

Humongous: huge + monstrous

Ineptitude: inept + attitude

Microsoft: microcomputer + software

Modem: modulation + demodulation

Muppet: marionette + puppet

Pixel: picture + element

Prissy: prim + sissy

Skype: sky + peer-to-peer

Smog: smoke + fog

Taxicab: taximeter + cabriolet

Travelogue: travel + monologue

Vitamin: vita + amine

WiFi: wireless + fidelity

There were some words I’ve never seen before. For example, I live in Wisconsin, where we get a lot of snow and ice, and I’ve never heard this word used in any weather forecast, snice: snow and ice.

Ambigram: ambiguous + gram

Automagically: automatic + magically

Flexitarian: vegetarian + flexible

Mizzle: mist + drizzle

Sporgery: spam + forgery

Stagflation: stagnation + inflation

And some words seem like malapropisms when we hear them for the first time, but they are actually real words; for example, refudiate: repudiate + refute.

It really makes me wonder who originally coined these words, why they felt the need to create them, and how they were so darn clever!

Deborah Spring Laurel is the President of Laurel and Associates, Ltd., a certified woman-owned small business that builds and strengthens managerial, employee development and technical skills through the design and delivery of participatory classroom training on a national and international basis

 

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