Tuesday 4 December 2012

Vocabulary: Do You Wordplay? -- Portmanteau

A poster at Facebook Headquarter
Image from TC and Facebook
Some time ago, my student Raymond asked me the ways to attract his customers using English, and immediately I replied, "Word Play".

There are many types of word play but the one I personally like because of popularity and simplicity in today's English is portmanteau.

Humpty Dumpty and Alice
Image from Wikia
According to Wikipedia,

A portmanteau or portmanteau word is a combination of two (or more) words or morphemes, and their definitions, into one new word.

(FYI, A morpheme is the smallest semantic unit in a language).

One classic example is of course, brunch, which is

breakfast + lunch = brunch

then the urban (non-standard English) version of lunch and dinner came along as dinch,

dinner + lunch = dinch

Wikipedia writes that the word 'portmanteau' was first described by the prominent Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865), in its sequel Through the Looking-Glass (1872) when Humpty Dumpty explained to Alice the formation of strange words in the nonsense verse poem Jabberwocky.

'You see it's like a portmanteau—there are two meanings packed up into one word.'

For example,
slimy + lithe = slithy,
miserable +  flimsy = mimsy

And here's the poem Jabberwocky,


'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! and through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

(Possible interpretations of the poem can be found on Wikipedia.)

That said, portmanteau is at its 140 anniversary this year!!! How remarkable!!

As time past, creative beings has expanded this joyful technique of wordplay to infinity and beyond!

First, there is fabulicious,

fabulicious = fabulious + delicious

then on YouTube, Kai Wong of Digitalrev threw out the word Bokehlicious in several Digitalrev TV videos and successfully turned this word into an indispensable adjective in the field of photography.

bokehlicious = bokeh + delicious

Here's a video playlist of Kai Wong himself promoting the word,

Facebook staff droidfood because Android is winning
the race in popularity.
Image from TC and Facebook

Facebook began their app development based on the iPhones, but the reality is that Android phones have long overtaken the iPhones and so Facebook is putting up posters to start switching to Android and hence test their own Facebook products.

droidfooding = Android + dogfooding

Taiwanese NBA player Jeremy Lin stunned the world with his skills and stories about him flooded the internet, which led to the creation of the word, Linsanity, which literally means that Jeremy Lin is insanely good basketball player!

Linsanity = Lin + insanity

I remember that somebody has trademarked this word but I can't recall who.
Image from deathandtaxesmag
On TV, portmanteau can be easily found as the name of a program. Take dramedy Californication as an example,

Image from Showtime

dramedy = drama + comedy

 Californication = California + Fornication

we can easily see that the storyline must be related to sexual relationships of a married man.

In House M.D., season 3 episode 2, Cane & Able, House was looking at the huge theatre screen for an oddity in a patient's heart, and he found it,

Image from FOX

House: There.

Foreman: Where?

House: Right there. Left side, no movement. [Cameron freezes the shot.] Well, don’t freeze it! Something’s not moving, how do you see something not move if nothing’s moving? [She restarts it.] I need the laser pointer.

Cameron: We don’t have a laser pointer.

House: Well, why not? Who’s going to take us seriously if we don’t have a laser pointer? Right here! [He jumps to point at the spot on the screen; as he lands he grimaces and clutches at his leg.] A few thousand myocytes not beating with the rest.

Chase: So you found an arrhythmia.

House: That’s not an arrhythmia, that’s a no-rhythmia. Myocytes contract, these aren’t moving at all. Go get me those myocytes; I want to talk to them in my office.

And so the word no-rhythmia was born!

no-rhythmia = no + arrhythmia

A more practical example is spork or foon

A spork
Image from Wikipedia
spork = spoon + fork
foon = fork + spoon

And the list goes on and on as long as creativity allows!

Oh, and let's not forget the one I created, typhoo-liday / typhooliday!

English is just so much fun to play with!!! Let's see if you can make up some good ones!

portmanteau -- (n) [C] or portmanteau word is a combination of two (or more) words or morphemes, and their definitions, into one new word. A portmanteau word typically combines both sounds and meanings
morpheme -- (n)[C] In linguistics, a morpheme is the smallest semantic unit in a language.
semantic -- (adj) (of words and language) connected with meaning:
prominent -- (adj) very well known and important
sequel -- (n)[C] a book, movie, or play that continues the story of a previous work
brunch -- (n)[C]  a meal sometimes eaten in the late morning that combines breakfast and lunch
dinch -- (n)[C] the abbreviation for the consumption of meals during the hours after lunch but before dinner
fabulicious -- (adj) fabulous and delicious
indispensable -- (adj) too important not to have; necessary:
bokehlicious -- (adj) delicious bohek / blurring effect of an image
droidfooding -- (n) testing products on Android platform
dogfooding -- Eating your own dog food, also called dogfooding, is a slang term used to reference a scenario in which a company (usually, a software company) uses its own product to demonstrate the quality and capabilities of the product.
insanity -- (n) [U] mental illness
Linsanity -- (n) [U] Lin + insanity
dramedy -- (n) [C] Comedy-drama (dramedy, comedrama, comedic drama, or seriocomedy) is a genre of theatre, film, and television that combines elements of comedy and drama, having both humourous and sometimes serious content
fornication -- (n)[U] formal disapproving sex with someone who you are not married to 
no-rhythmia -- (n)[U] not having any forms of rhythmic movements
arrhythmia -- (n) [U] Cardiac dysrhythmia (also known as arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat) is any of a large and heterogeneous group of conditions in which there is abnormal electrical activity in the heart. The heartbeat may be too fast or too slow, and may be regular or irregular. A heart beat that is too fast is called tachycardia and a heart beat that is too slow is called bradycardia.
spork -- (n)[C] or a foon is a hybrid form of cutlery taking the form of a spoon-like shallow scoop with three or four fork tines.
typhooliday / typhoo-liday -- (n)[C] A word created by Locky, meaning a holiday brought about by the issue of high intensity Typhoon signals

Jason Mraz - Wordplay (Video) @ YouTube

Word Play @ Wikipedia

Portmanteau @ Wikipedia

Morpheme @ Wikipedia

Dinch @ Urbandictionary

Lewis Carroll @ Wikipedia

Jabberwocky @ Wikipedia

Digitalrev Bokehlicious T-shirt

Droidfooding: After Years Of Giving Employees iPhones, Posters At Facebook HQ Beg Them To Test Android @ TC

Californication @ Wikipedia

House, M.D. | Episode 3-02 Transcript | Cane & Able @ zg85

Spork @ Wikipedia

Types of Wordplay @ Education.com

List of Forms of Word Play @ Wikipedia