Portmanteau Words

For your edutainment.

alice-in-wonderland-mad-hatterLewis Carroll, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, coined a term for words created by combining the sounds and meanings of two (or more) different words: he called it a portmanteau [port-MAN-toe] word.[1] The next time something tickles your funny bone and makes you chuckle and snort, you can thank Mr. Carroll for the descriptive word chortle. He also gave us galumph (gallop + triumph, or a triumphant gallop). I challenge you to work those words into a meaningful conversation tomorrow with a loved one, teacher, or client. They will be impressed.

A portmanteau word is created when smoke is blended with fog (=smog), when gigantic is combined with enormous (=ginormous), when information is combined with commercial (=infomercial), when education is combined with entertainment (=edutainment), and when Oxford is combined with Cambridge (=Oxbridge).[2]

Now that we’ve been enlightened by this life-changing term, portmanteau word, here’s a list of ten more, used somewhere in the world every day:

  • aerobicize (aerobic + exercise)
  • blog (web + log)
  • brunch (breakfast + lunch)
  • docudrama (documentary + drama)
  • emoticon (emotion + icon)
  • fantabulous (fantastic + fabulous)
  • motel (motor + hotel)
  • simulcast (simultaneous + broadcast)
  • televangelist (television + evangelist) 
  • Vitameatavegamin (a portmanteau word on steroids: vitamins + meat + vegetables + minerals. From I Love Lucy, season 1, episode 30.)

Your turn. Please share a portmanteau word you’ve used or have heard used. If it’s your own made-up word, that’s great—as long as it’s one you have actually used with real people. Kindly observe proper netiquette (Internet + etiquette) at all times.  Δ

[1] Linguists use the term blend.

[2] The source for most of the information in this post is Bryan A. Garner, Garner’s Modern American Usage (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 644.

©  2016 by Dean Christensen. All rights reserved.


Near Death in a South Dakota Pig Pen

I knew I was going to die that day . . . covered in blech!


I sat in I stunned silence while Mr. G., my creative writing teacher, announced to the class that my true-life story had been named the winner in a kinda-sorta writing competition that had been judged by a panel of local writing experts. This was my junior year of high school. I guess I had really been on my game when I wrote it as that was the first time a piece of my writing had “won” anything. It turns out it has been the only time. I received no prize—nothing tangible, anyway—just the immense satisfaction of having a group of adult writing experts recognize and applaud my wannabe talent.

While Mr. G. was telling the class about it, my head began to swell as the shock wore off and the reality sank in. The bubble quickly burst when Mr. G. himself stuck a pin in it: “This isn’t necessarily the decision I would have made,” he said—a disavowal I’m sure was meant to soothe the offended sensibilities of the highly intelligent and the truly talented ones sitting around me—the cream of the crop of the “smart kids” at my high school. It’s not that I was a bonehead who had somehow, by clerical error, been assigned a seat with these Gifted Ones. At any rate, not that I recall. But I wasn’t one of the Gifted Ones. Mr. G. knew it, and the Gifted Ones knew it. All God’s chillun knew it.

 I wish I still had a copy of that story, but few bits of memorabilia from high school have survived, which is just as well. I’m enough of a pack rat as is. You should see my home office where I’m sitting right now. On second thought, no.

So here is today’s version of “Near Death in a South Dakota Pigpen.”

Continue reading “Near Death in a South Dakota Pig Pen”