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A portmanteau word (pronounced en-us-portmanteau-1.ogg /pɔːtˈmæn.təʊ/ ) is used broadly to mean a blend of two (or more) words,[1][2][3] and narrowly in linguistics fields to mean only a blend of two or more function words.[4][5][6][7]


[edit] Meaning

"Portmanteau word" is used to describe a linguistic blend, namely "a word formed by blending sounds from two or more distinct words and combining their meanings."[1]

Such a definition of "portmanteau word" overlaps with the grammatical term contraction, and linguists avoid using the former term in such cases. As an example: the words do + not become the contraction don't, a single word that represents the meaning of the combined words.

[edit] Origin

The usage of the word "portmanteau" in this sense first appeared in Lewis Carroll's book Through the Looking-Glass (1871),[1] in which Humpty Dumpty explains to Alice the coinage of the unusual words in Jabberwocky:[8]

  • "‘Slithy’ means ‘lithe and slimy’... You see it's like a portmanteau—there are two meanings packed up into one word"
  • "‘Mimsy’ is ‘flimsy and miserable’ (there's another portmanteau ... for you)".

Carroll uses the word again when discussing lexical selection:

Humpty Dumpty's theory, of two meanings packed into one word like a portmanteau, seems to me the right explanation for all. For instance, take the two words "fuming" and "furious." Make up your mind that you will say both words ... you will say "fumious."[8].

Carroll suggests here a double metaphor. The original meaning of the word 'portmanteau' is a form of suitcase containing two separated hinged compartments; thus: two distinct words, packed as one. The word 'portmanteau' is itself a 'portmanteau word', deriving from the French compound "porte-manteau" consisting of the conjugated word porter (to carry) and the word manteau (coat), meaning a coat hanger.[9]

[edit] Examples

The original "Gerrymander" pictured in an 1812 cartoon. The word is a portmanteau of Massachusetts Governor Gerry's name, with "salamander"

Many neologisms are examples of blends, but many blends have become part of the lexicon.[8] In Punch in 1896, the word brunch (breakfast + lunch) was introduced as a "portmanteau word."[10] In 1964, the newly independent African republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar chose the portmanteau word Tanzania as its name. A spork is an eating utensil that is a combination of a spoon and fork.

"Wikipedia" is an example of a portmanteau word because it combines the word "wiki" with the word "encyclopedia."

The name Motown derives from the portmanteau of Motor and town. It is also a nickname for the city of Detroit.

Blaxploitation is a film genre/style, whose name derives from a portmanteau of "black" and "exploitation," reflecting its main theme of social problems and crime among African American people.[citation needed]

Portmanteau words may be produced by joining together proper nouns with common nouns, such as "gerrymandering," which refers to the scheme of Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry for politically contrived redistricting: one of the districts created resembled a salamander in outline. Two proper names can also be used in creating a portmanteau word in reference to the partnership between people, especially in cases where both persons are well-known, or sometimes to produce epithets such as "Billary" (referring to former United States president Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton). In this example of recent American political history, the purpose for blending is not so much to combine the meanings of the source words but "to suggest a resemblance of one named person to the other"; the effect is often derogatory, as linguist Benjamin Zimmer notes.[11] In contrast, the public and even the media use portmanteaux to refer to their favorite pairings as a way to "...giv[e] people an essence of who they are within the same name."[12] This is particularly seen in cases of fictional and real-life "supercouples." An early and well-known example, Bennifer, referred to film stars (and former couple) Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. In double-barreled names, the hyphen is almost pushing one name away from the other.[12] Meshing says "I am you and you are me," notes one expert.[12]

Portmanteaux (or portmanteaus[13]) can also be created by attaching a prefix or suffix from one word to give that association to other words. Subsequent to the Watergate scandal, it became popular to attach the suffix "-gate" to other words to describe contemporary scandals, e.g. "Filegate" for the White House FBI files controversy. Likewise, the suffix "-holism" or "-holic," taken from the word "alcoholism" or "alcoholic," can be added to a noun, creating a word that describes an addiction to that noun. Chocoholic, for instance, means a person who is "addicted" to chocolate. Also, the suffix "athon" is often appended to other words to connote a similarity to a marathon (for example, telethon, phonathon and walkathon).

Portmanteau words can be used to describe bilingual speakers who use words from both languages while speaking. For instance, a person would be considered speaking "Spanglish" if they are using both Spanish and English words to voice a complete thought.

[edit] Portmanteau morph

In linguistics, the term blend is used to refer to general combination of words, and the term "portmanteau" is reserved for the narrow sense of combining two function words. Examples of such combination include French "à le" → au, and "de le" → du. This usage has been referred to as "portmanteau morph."[14]

[edit] See also

Look up portmanteau word, Category:Portmanteaus in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b c Oxford English Dictionary, Portmanteau definition 4b, giving Carroll as first user, second usage appearing in 1882 in the Cornhill Magazine
  2. ^ "portmanteau". Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/portmanteau. Retrieved on 2008-06-21. 
  3. ^ "portmanteau word". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000. http://www.bartleby.com/61/91/P0459100.html. Retrieved on 2008-06-21. 
  4. ^ "What is a portmanteau morph?". LinguaLinks Library. 2003. http://www.sil.org/Linguistics/GlossaryOfLinguisticTerms/WhatIsAPortmanteauMorph.htm. 
  5. ^ Thomas, David (1983), An invitation to grammar, Summer Institute of Linguistics, Bangkok: Mahidol University, p. 9 
  6. ^ Crystal, David (1985), A dictionary of linguistics and phonetics (2nd ed.), New York: Basil Blackwell, pp. 237 
  7. ^ Hartmann, R.R.K.; Stork, F.C. (1972), Dictionary of language and linguistics, London: Applied Science, pp. 180 
  8. ^ a b c Fromkin, V., Rodman, R., and Hyams, N. (2007) An Introduction to Language, Eighth Edition. Boston: Thomson Wadsworth. ISBN 1-4130-1773-8
  9. ^ French has mot-valise (translit. : "suitcase-word"), contrepétrie and enchâssement
  10. ^ Punch, 1 August 1896, 58/2
  11. ^ Zimmer, Benjamin (2005-11-01). "A perilous portmanteau?" (HTML). Language Log. University of Pennsylvania. http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/002610.html. Retrieved on 2008-11-11. 
  12. ^ a b c Winterman, Denise (2006-08-03). "What a mesh". BBC News Magazine. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/5239464.stm. Retrieved on 2008-07-17. 
  13. ^ http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/portmanteau
  14. ^ "What is a portmanteau morph?". LinguaLinks Library. 2003. http://www.sil.org/Linguistics/GlossaryOfLinguisticTerms/WhatIsAPortmanteauMorph.htm. 
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