As a word nerd, I am fascinated with how language changes over time. In particular, I like to learn about portmanteau words
, or words that are formed by combining two words and their definitions into a new word. Common examples include smog
(from smoke and fog) and motel
(from motor and hotel).
“Portmanteau words are the sound bites of modern English, calculated to catch on the first time people hear them,” says linguist Geoffrey Nunberg, author of “The Way We Talk Now.”
Below are a few portmanteau words you may be familiar with, along with some more obscure examples.
—from anecdote and data.
—from banker and gangster.
—from bold and audacious.
—from chuckle and snort.
—from cooperation and competition.
—an alternative to spork: a fork and spoon.
—from friend and enemy. A frenemy could be an enemy pretending to be a friend or a friend who is also a rival.
—a man who wears eyeliner.
—you guessed it: karaoke in a taxi.
—from math and athlete. Not necessarily an athlete good at math, but a participant in mathematical competitions.
—from melt and weld.
—from mock and documentary. The 1984 film “This is Spinal Tap
” is an example of the genre.
—a combination of not and either.
—from picture and element.
—from refute and repudiate. This term was coined inadvertently by Sarah Palin.
—from smoking and flirting. It occurs when people go outside to smoke and then start flirting.
—from snide and remark.
—from splash and spatter.
—from stay and vacation.
—from transfer and resistor.
—from vital and amine.
[RELATED: Get advanced writing and editing tips from Mark Ragan and Jim Ylisela—choose from 4 cities!]
readers, what are some of your favorite portmanteaus?
Laura Hale Brockway is an Austin-based writer and editor and a regular contributor to PR Daily. Read more of her work at impertinentremarks.com.