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A Dozen Delightful Portmanteaus
Saturdays are perfect days for pleasant surprises. Surprise—we’re talking about portmanteaus today!
You might not have heard the term “portmanteau” before, but you definitely know many of them. A portmanteau is a type of blend word that combines the sounds and meanings of two other words to create a more descriptive term.
Most portmanteaus create simple new words from simple old words, like brunch from breakfast + lunch or mansplain from man + explain. Some of the most interesting and descriptive portmanteaus derive from classical roots:
Edutainment (education + entertainment) describes any form of entertainment designed to be educational.
BREAKDOWN: E- (out) + DUC- (lead) + TAIN- (hold) + -MENT (action, state)
A mockumentary (mock + documentary) is a fictional work presented in the style of a true documentary.
MOCK- (feigned, counterfeit) + -MENT (action, state) + -ARY (connected with)
An advertorial (advertisement + editorial) is paid advertising that is designed to look like journalistic content in any form of media.
BREAKDOWN: AD- (towards) + VERT- (turn) + -OR (one who does) + -IAL (pertaining to)
Animatronics (animation + electronics) refers to the practice and field of making and operating lifelike mechatronic (electromechanical) puppets, typically for use in film or other entertainment.
BREAKDOWN: ANIM- (life) + -ATE (to make or do) + ELECTRIC (charged with electricity) + -ON (ion) +IC (science or discipline)
An emoticon (emotion + icon) is a depiction of a facial expression using standard characters like punctuation marks and symbols to express an emotion or reaction.
BREAKDOWN: E- (out) + MOT- (to move) + -ICON (image, picture)
A biopic (biography + picture) is a biographical movie dramatizing the life of a particular person.
BREAKDOWN: BIO- (life) + PICT- (paint)
A prequel (previous + sequel) is an artistic work whose story precedes that of a previous work, as opposed to a sequel, which is a continuation of a story.
BREAKDOWN: PRE- (before) + SEQU- (to follow)
Stagflation (stagnation + inflation) is an economic term describing a continuous period of high inflation and unemployment.
BREAKDOWN: STAGN- (still; standing water) + FLAT- (to blow) + -TION (state of being, act of)
A metaverse (meta + universe) is a shared, persistent, live, interactive digital universe.
BREAKDOWN: META- (beyond) + UNI- (one) + VERS- (turn back)
dumbfounded (dumb + confounded) means speechless with amazement or astonishment, based on the traditional meaning of dumb.
BREAKDOWN: DUMB (mute, silent) + FUND- (pour) + -ED (state of)
Glamping (glamorous + camping) describes any form of fancy, upscale, or luxurious camping.
BREAKDOWN: GLAMOR (magic spell) + CAMP- (make camp) + -ING (act of)
My personal favorite is affluenza (affluence + influenza) This term refers to the inability of an individual to understand the consequences of their actions because of their social status or economic privilege and has been used as a legal defense. Interestingly affluenza is a portmanteau of two words that both derive from the root FLU-.
BREAKDOWN: A- (to) + FLU- (flow) + -ENT (inclined to) + the ending of influenza
“The word portmanteau itself is an appropriate embodiment of this word form, since portmanteau, which is French for porte (to carry) + manteau (cloak), describes a suitcase that opens in two halves. Portmanteaus ‘carry’ both meanings of their word pairs.” (OED)