Saturday, April 13, 2013

Portmanteaux: Get It Together

Sometimes a compound noun will work just fine. If this isn't the case, then a portmanteau may be the best option. When elements or parts of two or more words are combined into one word, the resulting word is a portmanteau. Coming from the French word for a type of suitcase, the portmanteau often features two compartments, just like its linguistic namesake.

Ironically, the word portmanteau in French is not used to refer to the linguistic melding of words to form new ones. Its current incarnation, porte-manteau, refers simply to a coat stand or coat hook.

If you're really adventurous you can always try out a sporf.
The spork is a portmanteau of spoon and fork. If you are lucky enough to have the time for it, brunch (breakfast plus lunch) is a great way to enjoy more food in the morning, but if you really want pancakes and cereal after six then brinner may be what you need. All these examples take the start of one word and combine it with the end of another.

The word moped, however, takes the start of its component words, motor and pedal, while motel combines motor and hotel, which blend around their shared /oสŠt/ sounds.

If you are familiar with French or Spanish, then you will know the origins of au and al. In French, when ร  should be followed by le it instead changes to au, while in Spanish when a should be followed by el it changes to al. However, these words are different from our other examples since they are compulsory contractions due to the grammar rules of the two languages.

Recently we've heard some pretty good portmanteaux for male cosmetic products such as guyliner (eyeliner for guys) and manscara (mascara for men). With traditional gender roles clearly swapping over, perhaps it will soon be the woman who will be expected to be carrying her femidom (condom for females).

Know any other interesting portmanteaux? Let us know in the comments.


  1. They use "mot-valise" and it derives from... English! It means something like "suitcase word". It's a weird criss-crossed reference :)

  2. nowadays many of us use "fantabulous" -- a portmanteau for Fabulous and fantastic