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109 "portmanteau word" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)




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This article is from the alt.usage.english FAQ, by Mark Israel misrael@scripps.edu with numerous contributions by others.

109 "portmanteau word" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)


This term for "blend word" comes from "portmanteau", "a
leather travelling case that opens into two hinged compartments"
(from the French for "carry cloak"), by way of Humpty Dumpty in
Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking-Glass": "You see it's like a
portmanteau -- there are two meanings packed up into one word."
Although most modern blends are simply the first part of one word
plus the last part of another (e.g., "brunch" = "breakfast" +
"lunch"; "smog" = "smoke" + "fog"; "Chunnel" = "Channel" +
"tunnel"), Carroll himself formed his portmanteau words in a more
subtle manner: "slithy" = "lithe" + "slimy"; "mimsy" = "miserable"
+ "flimsy"; "frumious" = "fuming" + "furious". Carroll's coinages
"chortle" (which is now in most dictionaries) and "galumph" (which
is in the OED) are generally understood as "chuckle" + "snort" and
"gallop" + "triumph" respectively, although Carroll himself never
explained them.

Blend words predate Carroll: MWCD10 derives "squiggle" from
"squirm" + "wriggle", and dates it circa 1816.

There is a dictionary of them: "Portmanteau Dictionary: Blend
Words in the English Language Including Trademarks and Brand Names"
by Dick Thurner (McFarland, 1993, ISBN 0-89950-687-9).

There is a Lewis Carroll WWW page at:
<http://www.LewisCarroll.org/carroll.html>

 

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