Thursday, August 25, 2011

Daily Vocabulary

Yesterday we introduced the neologism, or "new word" as a source of interesting vocabulary. Today we'll extend that discussion with a subset of the neologism:

Portmanteau, n. A blend of two words into one.

Some portmanteaus are so familiar we might not even notice them: Smog (smoke+fog). Spork (spoon+fork). Brunch (breakfast+lunch). Tanzania. Cambozola. Verizon.

Others are more abstract: Liger (a hybrid lion+tiger). "Turducken" is a chicken stuffed into a duck, stuffed into a turkey. "Slithy" is a word from the poem "Jabberwocky" (lithe+slimy). The author of that poem, Lewis Carroll, used numerous portmanteaus in his poem; in fact, he is credited with the first use of the word portmanteau in this definition! (Before that, it meant, in English, a type of suitcase.)

"Portmanteau" comes from French porter, to carry + manteau, cloak. This means that the word portmanteau, in its meaning of a combination of two words to make a new word, is itself a portmanteau.

Ah, the English language. Is there anything it can't do?

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