A portmanteau word is a word that’s made up of 2 other words; for instance, motel from motor hotel, smog from smoke and fog, brunch between breakfast and lunch, chortle from chuckle and snort, malware from malicious software, or the previously mentioned gerrymander. Here are more portmanteau words.
From JEOPARDY! in 2001: “Lewis Carroll coined the term ‘portmanteau word’, explaining how “slithy” combines these 2 words.” The question was slimy and lithe, which I didn’t get, and neither did any of the show’s contestants. Here are some easier ones from November 2011; questions at the end:
*This 9-letter word for a procession of cars is often used to refer to that of the U.S. president
*It’s the trademark name for the device used by police to measure a driver’s alcohol intake
*It’s the code of online social behavior
*It’s the smallest element of an image on a computer monitor
*This word refers to the visible path in the wake of an aircraft
As the Wikipedia notes, “A portmanteau word typically combines both sounds and meanings.” It defines the word Wikipedia as a portmanteau, since “it combines the word ‘wiki’ with the word ‘encyclopedia’.”
Lots of place names are portmanteau words: Texarkana on the Texas-Arkansas border; Tanzania is the joining of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, e.g.
It seems that portmanteaux are becoming more popular:
Chief ACTA Eurocrat quits in disgust at lack of democratic fundamentals in global copyright treaty – Eurocrat from European bureaucrat
Fracktivists from hydrofracking (itself a portmanteau) and activists.
Mutterance – from muttering utterance
There are even portmanteau generators out there. The roots of a good portmanteau should be clear, even if it’s newly minted.
One of the more unfortunate trends in portmanteau is called name-meshing, which comes when two famous people’s names get merged, such as Billary (Bill and Hillary Clinton), Brangelina (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) or TomKat (Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes). As often as not, the newer combos are lost on me.
The questions to those JEOPARDY! answers. What are: motorcade, Breathalyzer, netiquette, pixel, contrail.