April 18, 2007


Portmanteau - (Pronounced as Port-man-tow) noun

What do u think is common between words like: motel, chortle, muppet, brunch, smog, spork, moped, cyborg, blog or the silliest of them all Brangelina? It's a cinch really, and am sure u all know what I'm arriving at! :)

They are all portmonteau words or simply put portmanteaux/portmanteaus (plural of portmonteau) : words that are formed by combining both sounds and meanings from two or more words.

Portmonteau according to Chambers entered in English from Middle French around 1584 and was originally used to mean a travelling bag, typically with two compartments (porte- from porter- to carry, manteau- from Old French mantel- cloak).

The term portmanteau as a description of word combinations was devised by English writer and mathematician Lewis Carroll (real name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, 1832-98). Carroll introduced the portmanteau word-combination term in the book 'Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There' (the sequel to 'Alice's Adventures In Wonderland'), which first appeared in 1871. In the book, the character Humpty Dumpty uses the word portmanteau (as a descriptive noun) to describe to Alice how the new word 'slithy' is formed from two separate words and meanings, lithe and slimy: "...You see it's like a portmanteau - there are two meanings packed up into one word..."

"Portmanteau" is rarely used to refer to a suitcase in English any more, since that type of a suitcase has fallen into disuse.

This post takes me back to my post on Denial ain't just a river in Egypt where I talked about how some of the seminal authors whose works we have read and loved before, have enriched our vocabularies. This seems to be an interesting trip I have embarked on and I'm looking forward to every pit-stop. :)

Sources: http://dictionary.reference.com/ , www.wikipedia.org

Update (22/04/07): by 666

Check out this extensive list on portmanteaus


suramya said...

its a delightful word :), I came across it in the regency novels written by heyer, where the heroines used to pack their frills and furbelows in it before embarking for a 'season' in london. I have forgotten that it was ever used in alice in wonderland, but that book was read a really long time back.that almost makes me ancient :):)

Jas Bhambra said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
666 said...

I thought snark was the first portmanteau word coined by Caroll in his nonsense poem 'Hunting of the snark'. But it appears that snark itself comes from the works you mention.

So slithy is the first ever portmanteau word.

Infotainment eh:-)

and Mr Caroll would be require numerous pit stops.

Jas Bhambra said...

Very interesting, Swati. And now I'll go and pack my portmonteau fro my travel to Dallas this weekend! He he he!

I, at times when I speak too fast, tend to mix two words together making my own portmanteaux!

Jas Bhambra said...

I remember this one from my childhood.
"If a fork has four sharp ends, what would be a three sharp ended "fork" called, a threek???"

I am sorry for bringing my juvenile humor to these posts!! ;)

Radha said...

Such a long word & it only means a 'bag'? i'm so disappointed! :)

Radha said...

Btw, how is 'motel' a portmanteau? Its a combination of hotel and...?

666 said...

Motel - motor+hotel or motorist+ hotel

Radha said...

Really?? Didnt know that!

Moi said...

Su: am sure u did.....i too remember coming across this one before...where??? can't recall right away!

666: he sure would....a delightful author, isn't he??? i'm inspired to find if Orwell and Saki have contributed to neologism in any way.....apart from the most popular "Big Brother" by Orwell of course

jas: u can make me smile in the most trying of circumstances..:)
luv u and ur juvenile humor.......we can do without blue-stocking-ness all the time ......:DD

radha: 666 got it right! motel = motor + hotel = Hotel designed for persons traveling by automobile, with convenient parking space provided.
the idea was: By 1950 the automobile was the principal mode of travel in the U.S., and motels were built near large highways, just as hotels had been built near railroad stations.

guess how Muppet is a portmanteau??? :)

Radha said...

Mobile Puppets??

666 said...

the most popular post by far:-) bravo moi

have added a link which lists quite a few interesting portmanteaus

Moi said...

Radha : :DDDD.....its Marionette + puppet....kermit the Frog is one of the most popular ones....

666: shall i say, thank u, kind sir!!! :) thanx for the list.......quite an infotainment this has been.......while chking out the list, grumble (= growl+ mumble)came to mind that's missing from the list.

suramya said...

666: thank you for the list :)