Ray Hudson

The Portmanteau

Ray Hudson
Ray Hudson

This week I stumbled over a portmanteau, which is defined as:

The word comes from the English term “portmanteau luggage” for a piece of luggage with two compartments, itself derived from the French portemanteau (from porter [to carry] and manteau [coat]). Nowadays these terms are false friends as the French term has since evolved to mean a coat rack, while the English term still refers to the specialized piece of luggage.

For our purposes through, it also means a combination of taking parts (but not all necessarily) of two (or more) words or their sounds (morphemes) and their meanings into a single new word.

We use them all the time, and many of us have had the fun of inventing a few of these which underscores the flexibility of the English language to adapt to new concepts by this combining process.

An example is the marriage of information and entertainment to become Infotainment with such programs as Entertainment Tonight (now abbreviated as ET). It’s a language shortcut to reduce the number of words one uses. But like jargon it can become almost a second language.

A video camera recorder has become a camcorder, in the airplane you use, your pilot ensures your safety with aviation electronics: avionics.

On the battlefield of cohabitation relationships, we have alimony as a means of settling a marriage financially. But how to describe the same thing on the common law side? Someone coined the word palimony. Although I would have thought the better descriptive would have been expalimony (there – created another one).

We’ve seen the rise of the multiple movie theatre complex as the Cineplex, but if you want to stay home you can be entertained by Internet films (Flicks – a slang word that describes the flickering action of the early projectors) to become netflix.

When using your computer you will encounter free software programs dubbed freeware and occasionally programs with malicious code in them: malware. When setting passwords, you may be required to use alphanumerics meaning letters of the alphbet combined with numbers and occasionally hashampersandthingamabobs (otherwise known as #$&*),

We’ve been entertained by dramadies (drama-comedies) docudramas (real events with a whole lot of speculative fill) and literotica ( literature about….you figure that one out) while staying fit through jazzercise, sipping on our frappuccinos (frozen cappocinos) and mocktails (pseudo cocktail without the booze).

I remember chuckling in school at the thought of conjugating (heavy word) verbs. Now we have a language where almost any two words that can be conjugated is suffering the same fate.

But you have to admit, it can be clever and fun as we watch the Yuppies (young upwardly-mobile hippies), DINKS (double income no kids) and Millenials (the imminent threat to grey power) reshape our modes of communication.

As for the word Portmanteau, watch for that to become known as a PMT as we pursue our passion of creating acronyms. So until next week, Go forth and conjugate!