The letter X, let’s face it, is, pardon my French, an enormous pain in the ass. Very few words in English start with it, and when they do, it’s pronounced like Z, as in xanthan gum and xylophone. Why not just spell them zanthan gum and zylophone and be done with it? Speaking of xylophones…
To be fair, I think these are marimbas, and the one the guy plays in the middle is a vibraphone. Whatever. I love that video, especially the bass player.
Anyway, X is also the Roman numeral for ten, so here are ten more portmanteaux, or portmanteaus, if you prefer.
- mimsy (miserable + flimsy): The man who gave the name to portmanteau words was C. L. Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, in his book Through The Looking Glass. Humpty Dumpty is the one who introduces the concept to Alice from high atop his wall.
- CONELRAD (Control of Electromagnetic Radiation): Like FedEx, CONELRAD is a syllabic abbreviation, which are portmanteau words after a fashion. CONELRAD was a technique designed by the Office of Civil Defense back in the 1950’s to deal with the possibility of an attack by a hostile nation (at the time, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, now the Russian Federation and presumably no longer hostile). Theoretically, it prevented an enemy bomber from dropping an atomic bomb on a city by taking away a bomber’s ability to use radio and television signals to zero in on a city, much as we Americans did to Germany in World War II. Wikipedia (the blogger’s best friend) has a very good article on the subject.
- Cockapoo (cocker spaniel + poodle): Portmanteaux are used frequently to name cross-breeds of dogs, such as the cockapoo, the maltipoo (Maltese + poodle), and the like. While not recognized as a breed by the American Kennel Club and other certification organizations, the cockapoo is a popular dog, small and long-lived.
- Kimye (Kim Kardashian and Kanye West): Supercouples are popular, wealthy, or powerful couples that get a lot of attention from the public, mostly because they get a lot of attention from the tabloid press. Portmanteaus of their names are common: Bennifer (Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez), TomKat (Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes), Brangelina (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie), and Billary (Bill and Hillary Clinton) are examples. Occasionally, pairings of characters on television shows get the same treatment, such as Tiva (Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherley) and Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) from NCIS) and HarMac (Harmon Rabb (David James Elliott) and Sarah “Mac” McKenzie (Catherine Bell) from JAG).
- Sharknado (shark + tornado): This was a 2013 movie starring Ian Ziering and Tara Reid. Here’s the premise: “When a freak hurricane swamps Los Angeles, nature’s deadliest killer rules sea, land, and air as thousands of sharks terrorize the waterlogged populace.” I’ve never seen it (I think it aired on cable network Syfy in the US), but there was a lot of talk about it, most of it derisive…
- broccoflower (broccoli + cauliflower): What do you do with two cruciferous vegetables that kids won’t eat? Cross-breed them and make a third vegetable kids won’t eat, of course! (The difference between broccoli and boogers is that kids won’t eat broccoli…)
- surfactant (surface active agent): A word that I didn’t know was a portmanteau. If you read the content list of laundry detergent, most of them have (maybe it’s changed and this is no longer the case, I don’t know) one called “anionic surfactants.” They loosen the dirt and bring it to the surface, where agitation and other chemical compounds can remove it.
- Snowmageddon (snow + armageddon): Here’s one you’ve seen here. Snowmageddon generally refers to a major snowstorm that dumps lots of snow on an area and ties up traffic so badly that you’re better off staying in and waiting until the snow is removed, or, better, until it melts. That’s generally what we do here in Atlanta, which has everyone in stitches any time it happens, because a bad snowstorm in Atlanta typically leaves one to two inches. We’ve had far worse snow events here, though, believe me.
- simulcast (simultaneous broadcast): This is broadcasting an event over more than one medium simultaneously. In the 1970’s, before high-fidelity, stereo sound was possible via television, a local TV station broadcasting a concert would work with an FM radio station in the same market to broadcast the audio simultaneous with the video. The viewer could then watch the TV with the sound off and listen to the radio, and the picture (usually) matched with the sound. This could also refer to two radio stations airing the same programming, or someone publishing the same blog material on WordPress and Blogger…
- Texarkana (Texas + Arkansas + Louisiana): I talked back on March 25 about geographic names that are portmanteaus of the geographic areas that comprise them. Texarkana, Texas and Texarkana, Arkansas are twin cities that sit either side of the Texas-Arkansas border, and both are cities in an area called Arklatexoma, where Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana (postal abbreviation LA), and Oklahoma come together. Another example of this are the Benelux countries: Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.
This was a little longer than most entries, but I wanted to show how portmanteaus are used all through the English language. There are portmanteaus in other languages as well. I’ve referred to this list on Wikipedia for most of the portmanteaus I’ve used here, and there are many other lists on the World Wide Web. They’re a lot of fun, and I hope you’ll take some time to look into them in more detail.
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