Ah, the portmanteau – a word for a linguistic phenomenon that we use in everyday life without even knowing what it is. Portmanteaus are the blending of two words into one to create a meaning for a singular concept. Recent examples in popular culture are the blending of celebrity couple’s names into one, such as Brangelina for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, and Kimye for Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. If you’ve used these names, you portmanteau-ed and didn’t know it!
Like celebrity couples, these portmanteaus can be broken up easily when the couple parts ways. Other portmanteaus are more permanently bonded through such regular use that these blended words make it into the dictionary as their own entries.
Cockapoo, labradoodle, puggle and maltipoo are all portmanteaus of new dog breeds that people have created to showcase the best features from each breed into one cute new one. People are also creating all new types of animals by crossbreeding and making animals like beefalos, ligers, zorses, or even imagining combinations of mythical creatures like a Pegacorn (combining Pegasus and a unicorn).
Science words get smushed together, too, as science moves forward in our understanding of the world. Hazmat lets us know what materials are hazardous. A cyborg is a scary combination of a cybernetic and an organism (a robot that’s alive?!), and EpiPen, dispensing life-saving medicine for allergies, is a portmanteau of epinephrine and penetrator.
Places are also subject to portmanteaus, like the popular New York City neighborhoods like Tribeca and Soho. Mexico and California are combined in several ways from Calexico to Mexicali. And there’s a few descriptive ones, like Hotlanta to describe the temperature of Atlanta, Georgia.
But more than anything, the internet has brought us the biggest use of portmanteaus. Blog is a web log; malware is malicious software; emoticons are emotions expressed in icon form, and netiquette is a guide to how people should behave on the internet. Even internet itself is a portmanteau, combining international and network. Other daily online portmanteaus we don’t think twice about are the electronic mails (emails) we send, or the podcasts (iPod and broadcast), the webinars, webcasts and webisodes that have become a part of our everyday lives.
As society rushes forward almost too quickly, there are gaps in language that portmanteaus fill quite nicely. Some recent examples include mansplaining, Brexit, and affulenza. As fantabulous as it is to have these portmanteaus, we’re going to have even more ginormous dictionaries to hold all of these words, or maybe we’ll just put them all online in a Wikitionary.