Wednesday, March 31, 2010


teabonics = tea (party) + ebony + phonics

A big thank you to whoever created this Flickr photostream to collect the "creative" spelling and grammar so often seen on TEA Party protest signs.

Teabonics is intended to sound like ebonics, which is itself a relatively established portmanteau of ebony and phonics.


prostidude = prostitute + dude, i.e., a male prostitute

This word comes to us as America's first legal male prostitute leaves his Nevada brothel, as Language Log reports.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Attention Editors! Your Online Opiate Has Arrived!

This is why Twitter is so great. I might not have discovered this for ages without Twitter.

On Bite-Size Edits, editors and readers (that is, anyone who visits the site and is interested) are given three consecutive sentences and allowed to edit and leave notes for the second sentence. The sentences all come from texts submitted by members (and anyone can join for free).

Although the process is billed as a game -- you get points for making edits and suggestions, plus more points when your edits are deemed useful, and high point earners can win FREE BOOKS -- this is really an odd and quite enjoyable way to crowdsource the editing process. If nothing else, it can be a good way to exercise your editing chops.

Although this likely won't lead to a well-polished book, Bite-Size Edits can be of great use to striving writers, if only emotionally. Once you've submitted some text, it can feel good to know that work is still being done on your writings even if you have an off-day when you don't write. If you do start to get some good suggestions, it can also encourage you to keep writing so you'll have something new to post and keep the process going. Plus, there's the automatic (and, yes, egotistical) joy of knowing that you actually have an audience.

The site is still in beta, so there may be some bugs to fix and improvements to come. I don't know yet how well it can handle text formatting, for example. But it sounds interesting, and it really is quite fun.

So fun, in fact, that I've submitted one essay that I wrote (and sold!) a few years ago. You can read the original essay here, and if you like, start editing it one random sentence at a time here, though I suggest you you go to the Bite-Size Edits home page and edit the random sentences that it pulls from random submissions.

A warning, though: This is highly addictive. Plan on accidentally spending twice as much time as I think you'll spend there.

Brooke Shields and the Serial Comma

From Twitterer @CommaRules, another good argument for the serial comma:
Ladies' Home Journal might rethink using the serial comma. Wh... on Twitpic The bottom left states: "Brooke Shields On Marriage, Her Mom and Michael Jackson."
@CommaRules writes: "Ladies' Home Journal might rethink using the serial comma. Who knew about Brooke's mom and Michael Jackson?"

Not quite as bad as the infamous "To my parents, Ayn Rand and God." Well, it might be, depending on how you feel about Ayn Rand and/or Michael Jackson. Still, this is another example of how horribly confusing life is without the serial comma.

Catastrotea, Tea-pocalypse

catastrotea = catastrophe + tea
Tea-pocalypse = tea + apocalypse

"These Argo Tea baristas are joking about creating 'Catastrotea.' This is how the tea-pocalypse starts."

From Mark Peters via @wordlust.

A Programmatic Portmaneau Resource

I happened upon an interesting Web page at ThinkZone. Someone wrote a program to create portmanteau words based on overlapping letters and then listed "the better ones." It's a long list.

Technically, I guess they're portmanteau words, but they lack that certain naturality. They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and so it is with portmanteau words. The words in this list are motherless children looking for a home. Sure, some of them may be used sometime (badvantage and playpenitentiary aren't bad), but when they are used, they'll be reborn naturally -- not pulled from a list created by a program.

Monday, March 29, 2010


Globish = global + English

Globish was apparently coined in 2007 by French-speaking retired IBM executive Jean-Paul Nerriere. He noticed that a sort of "decaffeinated English" was becoming the lingua franca of international business and politics. It's "decaffeinated" because non-English-speakers have assembled only enough of an understanding of English to use it to communicate with other non-English-speakers, though it isn't as rich as British and American English are.

He noticed in Japan that non-English-speakers were communicating more effectively with other non-English-speakers than with the Americans or the British, even though they (the non-English-speakers) were using a subset of the English language to communicate. Nerriere dubbed this new means of communication Globish.

Robert McCrum will soon be publishing a book called Globish: How the English Language Became the World's Language, which details Nerriere's story and goes into further depth about how English is spreading throughout the world. You can read more about it in his blog post, which also features this wonderful photo that seems to define irony:


brunch = breakfast + lunch

An oldie but a goody.

Friday, March 26, 2010


touron = tourist + moron

This one was new to me. I just came across it in Bob Fenster's The Big Book of Duh!, which, as the cover indicates, is a great one to keep in the bathroom. Fenster writes this:

If you're out on the ski slopes getting in the way of the good skiers, they might mutter that you're another touron, which means you're both a tourist and a moron. That's slightly better than being called a SPORE -- one of the Stupid People On Rental Equipment.

This might be a new one to me because I've only been skiing twice in my life, both times before I turned 16. I don't remember a whole lot about it except that I had a great time, except for all the falling down.

A quick search for touron reveals that it has been used by a number of people. It may even be near the "established" status of portmanteaus.

Oregonian H.R. Hognblog has posted a nice list of ten ways to tell tourists from tourons. My favorite is #6:

Tourons are everyone on the road NOT driving a Ford or Chevy monster truck, Subaru Outback or Biodiesel Mercedes Benz. Tourists coasted into town on fumes because they spent all their money on weed.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Twision = twitter + visiĆ³n

As TechCrunch reports, rumors of a Twitter-based television show have finally found a solid Spain. Twision, an hour-long show that premiered in Spain last week, features hosts who respond to tweets labeled #veo7, including showing online video and other links that are talked about.

I'd like to see Larry King try something like this. No, really.

Is There a Wiki for Logic?

Landed on a Web page that started like this:

"You are viewing an inexistent page." Inexistent, though it sounds weirder than nonexistent, is still a legitimate word choice. Regardless, though, the illogic of viewing something that doesn't exist, and therefore cannot be viewed, is, well, wonderfully excruciating. I must stop thinking about's making me twitch. The fact that the sentence apparently continues "you can create it by mistake..." is just one of those happy acts of serendipity caused by my lack of (conscious) attention while I was cropping the image.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


hegan = he (as in male) + vegan

This portmanteau appeared in a Boston Globe article on March 24, 2010, and was used to describe "men in their 40s and 50s embracing a restrictive lifestyle to look better, rectify a gluttonous past, or cheat death."

There was a time in our not-to-distant past in which we moved away from names that designated gender: stewardesses became flight attendants, firemen became fire fighters, mailmen became postal workers, and the famous faces you see on the silver screen are of actors, regardless of what reproductive organs they were born with. Although it sometimes got a little weird and iffy (ombudsperson, anyone?), it generally made our language more compact, equitable, and malleable.

Why, oh why, then, would someone see a need to take an already gender-neutral term like vegan and create a new gender-specific term? Why the backward step?

I recognize that the author was trying to be witty and creative with her (yes, her) language. I just think this particular choice was a bad idea. I hope hegan doesn't catch on.

Thanks to @CopyCurmudgeon for pointing this out to me on Twitter.

threepeat or three-peat

threepeat = three + repeat

Threepeat is the act of doing something a third time, and it's normally reserved for competitors in sporting events. NBA coach Pat Riley submitted a trademark application in November 1988 for the use of three-peat on shirts, jackets and hats.

Threepeat is also one of the most annoying sports cliches out there, in my opinion. I prefer hat trick, and I don't even like hockey!

Monday, March 22, 2010


smog = smoke + fog

According to Wikipedia, the word smog "is generally attributed to Dr. Henry Antoine Des Voeux in his 1905 paper, 'Fog and Smoke,' for a meeting of the Public Health Congress." I hate to rely on Wikipedia for facts, but this one seems fairly believable and otherwise innocuous.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Lizaster = Liz + disaster

Used on NBC's 30 Rock on March 18, 2010. Tina Fey's character, Liz Lemon, rushes into Jack Donaghy's (Alec Baldwin's) office, asking for help: "It's a Liz relationship emergency. It's a Lizaster."

Catch some video from 30 Rock at

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Yahoo! Headline's Rape Victims, Crash Blossoms

Popping up in a number of places today, including Language Log, is the Yahoo! News "crash blossom" headline,

Women, girls rape victims in Haiti quake aftermath

A crash blossom is a newspaper headline that, after "standard" length reductions -- such as removing articles and linking verbs -- requires multiple readings to understand. Crash blossoms often appear because some word(s) in the headline could be read as different parts of speech -- which is what happened in the headline above.

Rape is meant to be a noun modifier of "victims" -- rape victims -- but it is more easily read as a verb. The real verb are has been omitted to save space.

The phrase crash blossom was coined by John McIntyre from one of the first instances of it that took his notice:

Violinist linked to JAL crash blossoms

In this case, blossoms is a verb, and the headline actually means "The violinist who is linked to the JAL crash is prospering." The link in question is that the violinist's father died in the crash.

Entire sentences that (normally) make grammatical sense but are pretty much the same sort of train wrecks are referred to as garden path sentences.


ginormous = gigantic + enormous

This might have been coined on an episode of Seinfeld, but I'm not entirely possible. Regardless, it has become so common that it is now appearing in dictionaries.

Sometimes a thing is bigger than just gigantic, and larger than just enormous. In that case, it's ginormous, like, uh, these:


Tuesday, March 16, 2010


vagazzercise = vaginal + jazz + exercise

Following the rise to prominence of the portmanteau word vagazzle, radio's Bob & Tom put together a moderately funny fake commercial for a vagazzercising class in which vagazzled (and apparently bottomless?) women did pelvic thrusts and squats, etc., as a group. The women's sweat interfered with the glue holding their vagazzle rhinestones in place, causing them (the rhinestones, not the women) to shoot around the room like shiny little bullets.

A recording of the fake commercial isn't currently on the Bob & Tom Web site, but it might be soon.


vagazzle = vagina + bedazzle

Although I'm not entirely certain that she coined the word, Jennifer Love Hewitt recently brought the word to the fore when she told George Lopez on live TV that she was "currently vagazzled," that is, she had shaved her pubic area and glued jewels (or rhinestones) above and around her mommy parts.

Remember the days when a girl shaving her pubic hair into a shape was considered risque at best and lewd at worst? Well, ladies, you've come a long way.


bit = binary + digit

I guess spending five syllables worth of time to talk about something so small was too much from the very beginning.

Monday, March 15, 2010


nameonics = name + mnemonics

In advertising, nameonics is all about creating a memorable name for a product in some way or another. The word popped up today in a NYT article about Vanguard trying to make Vanguarding a common investment term (the way googling and xeroxing have become words in their own right).

There's an interesting article by Jerry Steuber here about how nameonics works, or at least how it could work. I don't doubt Jerry's claim that he made the word nameonics up on his own, but I doubt that he was the first to do so. Some things, like gravity and portmanteau words, are so obvious to someone who's looking for them that they can be "discovered" independently by more than one person.


irrelephant = irrelevant + elephant

From @dscape: "anything that is unrelated to elephants is irrelephant"


hobovertising = hobo + advertising

I heard this one tonight while watching a rerun of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Partway through the episode, Danny DeVito brings in a bunch of scraggly homeless men and pays them cheap to wear sandwich boards. He calls it hobovertising.

The idea of  hobovertising isn't a new one among jokesters. Like selling homes near the airport to the deaf and getting Jehovah's Witnesses to deliver the mail, getting the homeless people who already hold up cardboard signs to hold up advertisements is one of those comedic ideas that pops up every now and then.

Someone thought hobovertising was awesome enough to actually merit its own fake Web site,

Friday, March 12, 2010


fanzine = fan + magazine

A fanzine is an independent magazine devoted to a specific cultural phenomenon. Fanzines are unofficial, mostly non-professional, and generally created by fans for fans. The Internet and print media being what they are, though, fanzines are inching their way toward the mainstream.

I was surprised to learn (from Wikipedia) that the word fanzine was coined way back in 1940 by Russ Chauvenet, who also coined the portmanteau word prozine, professional + magazine, as the opposite of a fanzine. The first fanzines were devoted to science fiction, Amazing Stories being perhaps one of the most well-known of those early fanzines today. Many of the 20th century's greatest writers got their professional and creative starts by either writer for or reading Amazing Stories.

The ability of the Internet to bring together fans from across the globe has moved fanzine-dom largely online, so that now there is even, which began in 2007 as a nonprofit, but is on the move toward selling advertising, blurring still the line between professional and non-professional.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

New Blog Announcement

FYI: I've started a new blog devoted portmanteau words called PortmanteauRing. Check it out.


simulcast = simultaneous + broadcast

Simulcast refers to a broadcast simultaneously transmitted over multiple media. Before television stereo sound was possible, networks would simulcast shows over both TV and FM radio. That way, viewers could watch on TV while listening in stereo on the radio.

One notable simulcast was 1985's Live Aid concert, which in most places was simulcast over at least one TV station and at least one local FM radio station.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Broccoflower = broccoli + cauliflower

Broccoflower is a cross between broccoli and cauliflower. The word Broccoflower was trademarked in 1989 by an outfit in California called Tanimura & Antle. Their Broccoflower looks like lime-green cauliflower.

I'm thankful that T&A (tee-hee) chose Broccoflower over the other portmanteau possibility, caulicoli, which is waaaay too close to "Call E. coli."

Another vegetable variation can also properly be called broccoflower, and that is Romanesco broccoli, also called coral broccoli. This variant of cauliflower has been around in Italy since the 16th century. Romanesco broccoli is way cool because it takes on a fractal-looking pattern:

Used in the wild:
About two years ago I noticed something funny as I flipped through a grocery store flyer. On the produce page was an ugly, green-looking cauliflower, with the caption "$2.99! Broccoflower!" It was hilarious. A green cauliflower labelled as a Broccoflower. The bizarre misfit child from two of nature’s most hideous vegetables.
from 1000 Awesome Things


beepilepsy = beep(er) + epilepsy

Although there are a plethora of definitions for this portmanteau word, each subtly different from the last, I think the word began life as a description of the paroxysm that a person undergoes when his or her beeper goes off on vibrate mode.

Beepers are really a thing of the past; we need a new portmanteau word to describe one's reaction to a cell phone/smartphone/iPhone/Star Trek communicator vibrating unexpectedly.

Any suggestions?

Monday, March 8, 2010


anecdata = anecdotal + data

This was a new one for me when I saw it this morning on Language Log: "A New York Times Room for Debate piece on 'Killing Pythons, and Regulating Them' (3/5/2010) supplies another piece of anecdata for my on-going quest to document the North American varieties of uptalk."

From what I've read, anecdotal data, or anecdata, is the least reliable type of data for forming good, scientific, verifiable conclusions. As such, I would expect anecdata to have a negative connotation. But apparently at least two companies/people have decided that anecdata is a good company name choice for an institution that's involved in demographic research. I've found Anecdata LLC, which collects stories in order to "help us all to understand what exactly makes good customer service so good"; and there's Anecdata Statistical Consulting, which "provides specialized analytic support for a range of biological, psychological, and epidemiological research interests."

To me, Anecdata Statistical Consulting seems like a contradiction in terms, and the company needs renaming. Judging from the lack of complexity of the Web site and the lack of blog updates, this company (which looks to be a single person) isn't exactly reeling in the customers.

What Are You Documenting? -umentaries

Anything truly good and serious deserves its own subversive genre.

Documentaries used to give us all sorts of great information about wars, people, events, and the like. Then, someone got the great idea to make a documentary about something that wasn't real. And you can't just call it a documentary if it's fictional, right?

The first "mockumentary" may well have been Orson Welles' War of the Worlds broadcast on October 30, 1938, but it certainly wasn't called that at the time.

The word mockumentary gained ground after Rob Reiner's This Is Spinal Tap (1984), which is still the standard that other mockumentaries try to live up to. Then the floodgates opened, both to types of documentaries and to the words used to describe them. Two of the more popular are
  • rockumentaries are documentaries about rock bands. According to Wikipedia, Bill Drake used the word rockumentary in 1969; Led Zeppelin's 1976 The Song Remains the Same is certainly in this genre, predating This Is Spinal Tap by nearly a decade. In more recent times, we've seen rockumentaries from U2's 1988  Rattle and Hum to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' 2007 Runnin' Down a Dream. Since MTV and VH1 hit the airwaves, rockumentaries have been a standard musical coming-of-age for any band who made it past their first album.
  • shockumentaries are documentaries designed to shock. They grew out of the 1960's Mondo films, which exploited taboo subjects such as sex, drug use, racism, and torture. As once taboo subjects became more common and acceptable, shockumentaries either drifted toward extremes (like John Alan Schwartz's Faces of Death) or slipped into more fictional or "dramaticized" venues (such as The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activities).
Now that the rhymes-with-dock-umentary portmanteau has caught on, it is appearing everywhere:

And on and on. There's no end to the crowdsourced creative mind. Think of any word that even remotely rhymes with or sounds like "dock" and tack it on to -umentary, Google it, and you'll find that someone has already either thought it up or has even created it -- from glockumentary to hickorydickorydockumentary.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Jazzercise: jazz + exercise

According to the Jazzercise Web Site, "Judi Sheppard Missett, who turned her love of jazz dance into a worldwide dance exercise phenomenon, founded the Jazzercise dance fitness program in 1969." from there, it has continually expanded into what is now Jazzercise, Inc.

I was surprised to learn that Jazzercise is older than I am, and even more surprised that that people are still doing it. I need to lose some weight; maybe I should give Jazzercise a try?

Saturday, March 6, 2010


Vancouverage: Vancouver + coverage

Coined by the Colbert Report folks as a handy, non-copyright-violating name of their Vancouver 2010 Olympics coverage.

From Ostrow Off the Record

Due to copyright restrictions and out of fear of being sued by NBC, Colbert is calling his effort "THE COLBERT REPORT" EXCLUSIVE VANCOUVERAGE OF THE 2010 QUADRENNIAL COLD WEATHER ATHLETIC COMPETITION. His catchphrase, naturally, is "DEFEAT THE WORLD!"

Friday, March 5, 2010


Portmanteau is itself a portmanteau word, from French.

porter ("to carry") + manteau ("a cloak") — to carry a cloak — it's a kind of suitcase that opens in two parts.

From Don Quixote

One of the students carried, wrapped up in a piece of green buckram by way of a portmanteau, what seemed to be a little linen and a couple of pairs of-ribbed stockings; the other carried nothing but a pair of new fencing-foils with buttons.

And from Frankenstein:

One night during my accustomed visit to the neighbouring wood where I collected my own food and brought home firing for my protectors, I found on the ground a leathern portmanteau containing several articles of dress and some books. I eagerly seized the prize and returned with it to my hovel. Fortunately the books were written in the language, the elements of which I had acquired at the cottage; they consisted of Paradise Lost, a volume of Plutarch's Lives, and the Sorrows of Werter.

Lewis Carroll first used portmanteau to describe a type of word in Through the Looking-Glass (1871), while Humpty-Dumpty is explaining the meaning of "The Jabberwocky."

It appears again in Carroll's Hunting of a Snark:
Humpty Dumpty's theory, of two meanings packed into one word like a portmanteau, seems to me the right explanation for all. For instance, take the two words "fuming" and "furious." Make up your mind that you will say both words . . . you will say "frumious."

Welcome to the PortmanteauRing

Welcome to PortmanteauRing, where today's blogging hobbyist is tomorrow's entreblogeur. I have dedicated this site to collecting documenting the various portmanteau words of the English language, whether they be in standard usage, of fairly recent origin, or of extemporaneous coinage.

To that end, I will categorize the words documented here (via tags) based on (my understanding of) their general usage:
  • established: Portmanteau words that have been around for a while and are generally in common usage. You might not have even known they were portmanteau words.
  • recent: Portmanteau words that have occurred fairly recently (say, within the last 50 years), but that are generally agreed upon as useful words.
  • coined: Portmanteaux that writers (mostly netizens) have come up with extemporaneously to express themselves.
  • double: A double portmanteau, such as the name of this blog, combines three words instead of just two; or it could involve combining two words, one of which is already a portmanteau.
  • trademark/copyright: Some business owners really get into wordplay, using portmanteau to name products, product lines, or even the company itself.
I will also occasionally write about specific words (or word parts) that are rather often used to create new portmanteaux. They'll be tagged as tipteau.

Also keep an eye out for words coined by the masters of portmanteau: the writers on The Colbert Report. They'll be tagged as Colbertism.

Eventually, I'll get around to creating a master list of all the words I document here. Someday.

I plan to model the format of this blog along the lines of Mark Peters's Wordlustitude blog. Thanks to him for his tacit inspiration. If PortmanteauRing is the kind of thing you enjoy, then you'll probably get a kick out of Wordlustitude, too, so check it out.

If you've gotten this far and are still wondering exactly what a portmanteau word even is, just go to the next blog post.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Today's Word: bumptious

bumptious: arrogant or conceited. Bumptious is ambiguous enough that one might mistake it for a compliment, especially if on the dance floor, where it can be taken as a comment on how well one can do the "bump and grind."

And you know that statuesque but self-important guy or gal whom you love to look at but just can't stand to be around? Scrumptious and bumptious, baby!