On this day in 1995, Diane White, writing in The Boston Globe, coined the blended word bridezilla (bride + Godzilla) to describe “brides who are particularly difficult and obnoxious” (1). White’s neologism follows a trend that began in the 20th century by combining two words to form a single new word. These blended words are also called portmanteau words.
Portmanteau comes to us from the English poet Lewis Carroll who used the portmanteau — a suitcase with two compartments that fold into one — as a metaphor to describe the word-blending that happens in the poem “Jabberwocky.” Examples from the poem are chortle (chuckle + snort) and galumph (gallop + triumph). The popularity of Carroll’s work not only added these new words to the English lexicon, it also seems to have encouraged others to try their hand at word blending (2).
In his book A Bawdy Language, Howard Richler traces the history of various blended words that preceded and followed Carroll’s Jabberwocky, which was published in Through the Looking Glass in 1871.
1823 anecdotage – The tendency for elderly people to tell stories, from anecdote + dotage.
1843 squirl – Handwriting with great flourishes, from squiggle + whirl.
1889 electrocute – Death by electricity, from electricity + execute.
1896 brunch – breakfast + lunch.
1925 motel – motor + hotel (3).
Blended words should not be confused with compound words, another popular method of adapting old words to create new ones. Unlike compound words, the two words that come together don’t just latch onto each other; instead, at least one of the words, and often both, must lose some of themselves in the merger, as in the following more contemporary examples:
Reaganomics – Ronald Reagan + economics
Spanglish – Spanish + English
motorcade – motor + cavalcade
telecast – television + broadcast
tangelo – tangerine + pomelo
moped – motor + pedestrian
hazmat – hazardous + material
agribusiness – agriculture + business
blog – web + log
The Internet and technology are probably the most prolific sources of new word blends these days. One interesting example is the term blook, which combines book with blog. USA Today featured an article on blooks on April 3, 2006, documenting the phenomenon of popular blogs morphing into books.
Today’s Challenge: Grab Your Blender
What two words might you blend to create a new blend? In the tradition of Lewis Carroll, try your own hand at coining some new blended words. Take two existing words and blend them into something new. Include a definition that makes the logical connection between the two words and explains the word’s meaning and relevance. (Common Core Language – 3)
Quotation of the Day: It seems you can’t open a paper or laptop these days without being ambushed by a new portmanteau word. They cover every walk of life: smirting and gaydar, guesstimate and Chunnel, metrosexual, stagflation, glamping, frappuccino and Buffyverse. . . . We have, I think it’s fair to say, reached peakmanteau. –Andy Bodle
1- Word Spy http://wordspy.com/index.php?word=bridezilla
2 – Nunberg, Geoffrey. The Way We Talk Now. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001.
3 – Richler, Howard. A Bawdy Language: How a Second-Rate Language Slept Its Way to the Top. Toronto: Stoddart Publishing, 1999.