Portmanteau: 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. Back in 2009, Paul and I 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 new words.

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.


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5 Responses to Portmanteau: 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.

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