I love a good portmanteau word. (“What’s that?” I hear the non-French-speaking, linguistically-disinterested cry. It’s the blending of two distinct sounds and their meanings to make a new word – like the word portmanteau itself. Thanks be to Lewis Carroll. Now let’s move on.) The other day I came across a cracker. Vegaquarian. Brilliant! And disappointed I wasn’t responsible for its creation.
Language and words and all that can be done with them cause my inner linguist-a-geek-ometer to go off the scale when I discover – or even better, create – a Winner (e.g. Number 7). But not all portmanteaux are slick and successful. Some are try-hard and forced, and serve only to remind us that the Fount of Names For Infectious & Unsavoury Diseases is brimming over with undiscovered possibility. (e.g. “Tween”. Good. God.).
The unstoppable force that is The Internet And The Cult Of Celebrity has created a monster when it comes to linguistic mash-ups, and after my ‘vegaquarian’ discovery I started thinking about the beauty and horror of the modern portmanteau. So here is My Non-Exhaustive Two Cents for Winning and Losing Portmanteaux.
1. Brangelina: Winner / Bennifer: Loser
Brangelina is slick and oozes designer class. My fascination with this pair led me to buy Grazia magazine every fortnight for too many months to admit on a public forum (the five-year-subscriber-to-Vanity Fair part of me was unimpressed).
Bennifer is the cheap-and-trashy high-street version made in a
sweat-shop factory in the Phillipines. Hung together in a manner reminiscent of a speech impediment, Bennifer just sounds shit. No wonder they didn’t last.
2. Liger: Winner / Squitten: Loser (No, really! It’s a kitten with a genetic deformity causing her to sit up like a squirrel!)
A liger is Napoleon Dynamite’s favourite animal.
A squitten is something I caught when travelling around Central America a few years back. Enough said.
3. Spork: Winner / Skort: Loser
I like the word ‘spork’ because I like camping, and a spork is a damn handy thing to have. Mine is yellow.
A skort harks back to the aforementioned and rectally-horrendous time I had in Guatemala.
4. Jeggings: Winner (in name only) / Jorts: Loser
Jeggings are probably the most hideous thing to have been ‘invented’ since the shell suit. But the word ‘jeggings’ is mirth-inspiring, as is the union of the legging and the jean.
Jorts, on the other hand, sounds like something encountered regularly by STD clinic workers.
5. Spanglish: Winner / Chinglish: Loser
Spanglish is great because (technical jargon alert) the morphemes ‘span’ and ‘glish’ aren’t abused. By staying true, Spanglish sounds like what it’s meant to be: a merging of Spanish and English. Obviously.
Chinglish doesn’t work because the morphemes have been tampered with. It should be ‘Chine’ and ‘glish’. Rule 1 For a Good Portmanteau: Don’t fuck with the morphemes.
6. Sorostitute: Winner / Sexting: Loser
I heard ‘sorostitute’ from an American friend of mine it and gets Ten Stars from me. Merging ‘sorority’ with ‘prostitute’ to describe a promiscuous sorority rich-girl is one step from genius.
Sexting is trashy and obvious, which means it loses points in the Genius stakes (although I do like ‘sexcapades’ and ‘sexcile’).
7. Bluecifer: a clear Winner / TomKat: Loser
Yep. Bluecifer. This one’s mine. Coined to describe the unbridled rage that lurks beneath the smokey exterior of my cat Blue (who I’m sure you’re all familiar with from this particular escapade) and which, when unleashed, causes her countenance to resemble that of Lucifer himself, it truly is genius.
Feline-themed comparator TomKat is a lazy, and therefore poor, portmanteau.
8. Fauxtography: Winner / Twitterati: Loser
Obvious only when written, this can be used to covertly criticise those who are responsible for adding dreamy filters to banality such as candy bars, hashtaging it “Bliss” and calling it an Event. Instagram is fun. Photography is fun. But Instagram-filtered photos are not a catapult to the heady heights of Photographer Extraordinaire and those who think it is are, appropriately enough, fauxtographers.
Twitterati is an appalling portmanteau and smacks of the vacuous ‘cool’ of Radio 1’s Fearne Cotton and similar ilk. Never use it. Ever.
9. Calexico: Winner / Chunnel: Loser
Calexico, as well as being an Americana band who I urge everyone to go out and discover, is the name of a town on the California / Mexico border. The name changes on the Mexican side to Mexicali. So not only does have an exciting array of sounds and stays true to the morphemes, it’s actually two portmanteaux for the price of one! America, you truly are great.
What do we in the UK have? The Chunnel. A clumsy and fat-sounding embarrassment of a word reminiscent of a child-friendly infectious disease. Chunnel. Jeez. I blame the Daily Mail, who I’m convinced were also responsible for ‘squitten’.