Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Frabjous Portmanteau Word

I've got to give credit where credit is due: while I bought a Gil Elvgren page-a-day pin-up calendar for 2011, my buddy Ron bought one for archaic word definitions, and this week we were pleased to learn the name for a word category everyone is already familiar with.

Whenever you use the words blaxploitation, frenemy, or jeggings, you're using what Lewis Carroll called a portmanteau word; "packing two words into one suitcase". He coined the tag in 1871, but the words have been around since at least 1812 and in our ever time-conscious world of information compression (infopression) we mash-up more of them all the time. Sexting. Emoticon. Blog.

While Carroll's poem 'Jabberwocky' is largely composed of invented terms it is hardly nonsense, containing many portmanteaus: the fumious bandersnatch is "fuming & furious", while the mimsy borogoves are "flimsy & miserable".

Now, you can gerrymander about Brangelina over brunch, chortling all the while, and you'll be using portmanteau words and seeing them everywhere.

I was all set to dazzle you with three I came up with myself!

However, Google tells me Piers Anthony wrote 'Pornucopia' in 1989. (Just, as an aside, thanks to my friend Anthony for his recent gift of a buttload of paperbacks, including many of Piers' Xanth titles. You rule, man!)

And there's already a board game called 'Prediculous', which I was going to define as something both predictable and ridiculous, as in "Smallville's getting ANOTHER season? How very prediculous!"

Finally, say it with me, "What awful shade of fake tan does Jersey Shore's Snooki use?"

Answer: Whorange.

Goodnight everyone! Drive safe!

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