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Portmanteau

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A portmanteau (plural: portmanteaux or portmanteaus) is a word that is formed by combining both sounds and meanings from two or more words. It can also be called a frankenword. The term used in linguistics is blend (see the section portmanteaus in linguistics below).

Contents

Etymology

This word was coined by Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, in which it is likened to a travelling case. Carroll has Humpty Dumpty say, "Well, slithy means lithe and slimy... You see it's like a portmanteau—there are two meanings packed up into one word." Carroll used such words to humorous effect in his poems, especially Jabberwocky, which Humpty Dumpty is explaining to Alice.

"Portmanteau word" was the original phrase used to describe such words (as listed in dictionaries published as late as the early 1990s), but this has since been abbreviated to simply "portmanteau" as the term (and the type of words it describes) gained popularity. "Portmanteau" is rarely used for its original meaning in current English, that type of travelling case having fallen into disuse.

James Joyce used portmanteau words extensively in Finnegans Wake. Many corporate brand names, trademarks, and initiatives, as well as names of corporations and organizations themselves, are portmanteaus. For example, Wikipedia is a portmanteau made from wiki and encyclopedia, and Wiktionary, one of Wikipedia's sister projects, is a portmanteau of wiki and dictionary.

Formation

Most portmanteaus are formed by one of the following methods:

  1. Part of the sounds of both components are mixed in a "creative" way, mostly preserving their order, e.g., slithy in an example above. This method was preferred by Lewis Carroll, but is not much in use otherwise. In another humorous (probably because less 'sensical') example, there were two songs released consecutively by the Swedish band Rednex, called "Cotton Eye Joe" and "Old Pop in an Oak"; Two portmanteaus were heard: 'Caught in an Oak' and 'Poppin' Eye Joe'.
  2. The beginning of one word is prepended to the end of the other, e.g., breakfast + lunch = brunch. Sometimes the letter/sound at the boundary is common to both components, e.g., smoke + fog = smog. This is the most common method of portmanteau forming.
  3. Both components contain a common sequence of letters or sounds. The portmanteau is composed of the beginning of the first component, the common part and the end of the second component. This is a rare kind of portmanteau. For example, the word Californication, popularized by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, sounds as if it were California + fornication.

The word giraffiti can be classified as either the first (according to spelling) or the third (according to sound) kind of portmanteau.

There is no formal definition of portmanteau. However, words made up of two or more other words are usually not considered portmanteaus if they can be described by some other term. Thus, the following are not portmanteaus:

Other languages

Portmanteaus for language mixtures

  • Chinglish in English: Chinese + English.
  • Czenglish in English: Czech + English.
  • Denglisch in German: Deutsch + Englisch ("German" + "English").
  • Finglish in English: Finnish + English.
  • Franglais in French: français + anglais ("French" + "English").
  • Frespañol in French: français + espagnol ("French" + "Spanish").
  • Germish in English: German + English.
  • Globish in English: Global + English.
  • Greeklish in English: Greek + English, written only, Greek typed in latin characters.
  • Hinglish in English: Hindi + English.
  • Itagnolo in Italian: italiano + spagnolo ("Italian" + "Spanish").
  • Itañol in Spanish: italiano + español ("Italian" + "Spanish").
  • Japlish in English: Japanese + English (though the more common term is the non-portmanteau Engrish)
  • Namlish in English: Namibian + English.
  • Portunhol in Portuguese: português + espanhol ("Portuguese" + "Spanish").
  • Portuñol in Spanish: portugués + español ("Portuguese" + "Spanish").
  • Singlish in Singaporean English: Singaporean + English, English with a Singaporean accent mixed with words from various Asian languages spoken in Singapore, such as Malay and Hokkien.
  • Spanglish in American English: Spanish + English.
  • Svengelska in Swedish: svenska + engelska ("Swedish" + "English").
  • Svorsk in Norwegian: svensk + norsk ("Swedish" + "Norwegian").
  • Taglish in Philippine English and Tagalog: Tagalog + English.
  • Thaiglish in American English: Thai + English.
  • Yinglish in American English: Yiddish + English.

Linguistics

In linguistics, the term portmanteau word is used in a much narrower, yet still not clearly defined sense.

Most of the examples given above are usually called blends by linguists. A blend in this sense is a word which creatively combines content words in ways that:

  • Often rely on similarity of sounds.
  • Don't respect their morphological structure (the way they are formed up from smaller meaningful parts).

For example, the word smog is formed by putting together the sm- from smoke and the -og from fog, but neither piece is actually a meaningful subpart of the word it's taken from. Blends are consciously and deliberately invented by people, in order to use language cleverly and creatively.

Linguists also use the term portmanteau for contractions.

de:Kofferwort fr:Mot-valise hu:Szóösszerántás pl:Portmanteau sv:Portmanteau

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