Creating words: blending

Peter_Newell_-_Through_the_looking_glass_and_what_Alice_found_there_1902_-_page_110‘Well, “SLITHY” means “lithe and slimy.” “Lithe” is the same as “active.” You see it’s like a portmanteau—there are two meanings packed up into one word. … “MIMSY” is “flimsy and miserable” (there’s another portmanteau for you).

 Humpty Dumpty talking to Alice,
     Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll (1871)

Portmanteau – a case or bag for carrying clothes
Etymology: from the French porter – ‘carry’manteau – ‘coat’

Like Lewis Carroll’s metaphorical hinged suitcase, lexical blends are made up of two distinct parts: usually the first part of one word and the second part of another. They are also called portmanteau words (after Carroll’s use of the word in 1871). Other examples from Through the Looking Glass include:

chortle (V) – chuckle and snort

galumph (V) – gallop and triumph

We have been blending words for a very long time:

flounder (V) – possibly from flounce + blunder (1592)

dumbfound (V) – dumb + confound (1653)

squiggle (V) – possibly from squirm + wriggle (1816)

Blends can create adjectives and verbs:

prissy (Adj) – prim + sissy (1842, uncertain origin)

ginormous (Adj) – giant + enormous (1948)

guestimate (V) – guess + estimate (1942)

breathalyse (V) – breathe + analyse (1967)

But most blends are nouns. They mark changes in society, particularly in the media, and in the fields of science and technology. See if you can identify the source words in each case (answers at the bottom of the post!).

SOCIAL

brunch (1896), affluenza (1973), netiquette (1982)

MEDIA

travelogue (1903), biopic (1947), simulcast (1948), fanzine (1949), mockumentary (1965)

ECONOMICS

stagflation (1965), shorting (1975)

TECHNOLOGY

bit (1948), modem (1958), pixel (1969), email (1979), freeware (1982), shareware (1983), malware (1990), blog (1999)

PRODUCTS

camcorder (1982), smartphone (1996)

SCIENCE

smog (1905), lox (1923), liger (1938), zonkey (1953), hazmat (1980)

LANGUAGE HYBRIDS

Chinglish (1957), Spanglish (1967), Japlish (1960), Hinglish (1967)

We know a blend has been embedded in the language when it exists in more than one word class, or adopts familiar suffixes:

email – noun (1979); verb (1983)

guesstimate – noun (1936); verb (1942);  guesstimation – noun (1937); guesstimator – noun (1948)        

 Some blends are used in the media (as an abbreviated form of language, which is often described as journalese) or in subject specific fields (e.g. computing), but have not yet made it into the dictionary:

staycation – stay-at-home + vacation

voxel (a measure of colour in computer graphics) – volumetric + pixel

vlog – video + blog

Blends can be used imaginatively to create characters (dragots = dragon + robot), places (Firor = fire + moor) and conceptsoctophant2 (magrifice = magnanimous + sacrifice).  A combination of surprising words draws together the characteristics of each so that the writer can challenge our expectations.

SOURCE WORDS …

SOCIAL: brunch = breakfast + lunch, affluenza = affluent + influenza, netiquette = internet + etiquette

MEDIA: travelogue = travel + monologue, biopic = biography + picture, simulcast = simultaneous + broadcast, fanzine = fan + magazine, mockumentary = mock + documentary

ECONOMIC: stagflation = stagnation + inflation, shorting = short + selling

TECHNOLOGY: bit = binary + digit, modem = modulator + demodulator, pixel = pics (pictures, abbreviated to pics/pix) + element, email = electronic + mail, freeware = free + software, shareware = share + software, malware = malicious + software, blog = web + log

PRODUCTS: camcorder = camera + recorder, smartphone = smart + telephone

SCIENCE: smog = smoke + fog, lox = liquid + oxygen, liger = lion + tiger, zonkey = zebra + donkey, hazmat = hazardous material

HYBRID LANGUAGES: Chinglish = Chinese + English, Spanglish = Spanish + English, Japlish = Japanese + English, Hinglish = Hindi + English

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s