Blame it on Lewis Carroll

A reader requested the following explanation: “…Perhaps you can tell me what word is used when a part of one word is combined with part of another word to form a whole new word.”

Well, the short answer would have been NEOLOGISM, which certainly would apply since a neologism can be a new word, a new meaning, or a new usage. Paul and I recently did an article for Forbes magazine for a special series on neologisms; we mostly talked about words for which the meanings have shifted rather than actual new creations——–but I digress in the name of self-promotion.

Neologism would be an appropriate general answer, but there’s a more specific answer that I think might apply. It’s called PORTMANTEAU. While a portmanteau was originally——and still is——-a leather bag with two compartments for carrying clothing while traveling, it is also two words that have been combined to make a new word that combines the meanings of both original words. The use of portmanteau in this way can be attributed to Lewis Carroll, who first used it toward the end of the 19th century. Wikipedia has a detailed history of the word portmanteau. For those interested in language, I recommend it.

Sherry

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5 Responses to Blame it on Lewis Carroll

  1. Lewis Carroll can, perhaps, be blamed for many things, not least taking pictures of naked children, and now this!

    Language must necessarily evolve, for the better, I think. However, sometimes when it evolves it can also be called Drunk-Speak. That’s my excuse.

    • languageandgrammar says:

      That’s actually not the worst excuse I’ve ever heard. 🙂 And don’t make me list them; it could get ugly.

  2. leftoverkumquats says:

    Plopping in to say I quite enjoyed this entry. Fascinating word.

    • languageandgrammar says:

      Thanks. You must be a word connoisseur with an appreciation for the more obscure.

  3. Adam Jacot de Boinod says:

    Dear Sir

    I wondered if you might like a link to both my Foreign word site and my English word website or press release details of my ensuing book with Penguin Press on amusing and interesting English vocabulary?

    http://www.thewonderofwhiffling.com

    with best wishes

    Adam Jacot de Boinod

    (author of The Meaning of Tingo)

    (www.themeaningoftingo.com)

    adamjacot@fastmail.co.uk

    or wish to include:

    1) THE MEANING OF TINGO
    When photographers attempt to bring out our smiling faces by asking us
    to “Say Cheese”, many countries appear to follow suit with English
    equivalents. In Spanish however they say patata (potato), in Argentinian Spanish whisky, in French steak frites, in Serbia ptica (bird) and in
    Danish appelsin (orange). Do you know of any other varieties from around the world’s languages? See more on http://www.themeaningoftingo.com

    2) THE WONDER OF WHIFFLING

    The Wonder of Whiffling is a tour of English around the globe (with fine
    coinages from our English-speaking cousins across the pond, Down Under
    and elsewhere).
    Discover all sorts of words you’ve always wished existed but never knew,
    such as fornale, to spend one’s money before it has been earned; cagg, a solemn vow or resolution not to get drunk for a certain time; and
    petrichor, the pleasant smell that accompanies the first rain after a
    dry spell.
    Delving passionately into the English language, I also discover why it
    is you wouldn’t want to have dinner with a vice admiral of the narrow
    seas, why Jacobites toasted the little gentleman in black velvet, and
    why a Nottingham Goodnight is better than one from anywhere else. See
    more on http://www.thewonderofwhiffling.com

    with best wishes

    Adam

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