Etymology

Good Portmanteau vs Bad Portmanteau?

What’s a portmanteau? The simple answer is two words, smashed together with the force of a charging elephant to form a new word (I choose my featured images well!). Lewis Carroll first coined portmanteau in Jabberwocky to describe words such as “chrotle” and “slithy.” Portmanteau merges two French Words, “porter” (to carry) and “manteau” (to carry). Portmanteaus have flooded languages ever since, though there are certainly the good portmanteaus and the bad portmanteaus. This, my friends, is what we will examine today. What are the truly great portmanteaus, and which ones should have never existed to begin with?

Sharrow

What is a Sharrow? A sharrow is a lane that is shared lane marked by two arrows and a Bike symbol. Basically it signifies that a lane is designated for both cars and bikes (and where I’m from, Scooters, skateboards, and any other formed of wheeled transportation).

Sharrow - bad portmanteau .
Image credit: Eric Fischer[CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)]

Is sharrow a good or a bad portmanteau?

BAD! Sharrow sounds like it was dreamt up by a stoner. When I hear the word “sharrow,” I think of people sitting in a circle, singing kumbaya, talking about the ways they share their lives and possessions with each other. In all honesty, the word sharrow sounds repulsive, and makes me want to do anything but “share the road.”

Schadenfreude

Technically, this one’s cheating as Schadenfreude is a German word that has been adopted by the English language. Schadenfreude mashes the German words for “pain” and “joy,” and means “pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune.” What a perverted concept, right? Oh, but so much fun….but I digress.

Is schadenfreude a good or a bad portmanteau?

Good! German is famous for their portmanteaus (or as they call them, Kofferwörters). At the very least, it provides a model of how portmanteaus should work. schadenfreude feels nice rolling off the tongue and is just a fun word to say.

Besides, it gave us this amazing song!

Phablet

What is a phablet? Originally, a phablet was a large smartphone. It signified that the phone was more the size of a tablet than your average cell phone. Sidenote, nowadays, most phones released in the last three years have reached phablet size.

Is phablet a good or a bad portmanteau?

BAD! VERY VERY BAD! Seriously, the word “phablet” just sounds stupid. Do not use the word, ever. It makes you sound like you want to sound clever, but lack the cognitive ability to do so. Besides, the whole concept of a phablet is an exaggeration. My Samsung Note 8 (which was the largest phone you could buy in the Fall of 2017), is nowhere near the size of my iPad. Even my old Nexus 7 tablet was at least three times the size of my phone.

Bad Portmanteau - Phablet
Even Apple makes phablets.

Fleek

What does “Fleek” (or rather “on fleek” mean? Something to the extent of “On Point.” While the etymology of Fleek seems to be up in the air, the etymologists believe that fleek comes from the words “fly” and “sleek.”

Is Fleek a good or a bad portmanteau?

I want to say bad, because “fleek” sounds terrible. However, maybe that’s the point. Fleek was never supposed to be for people like myself – even in 2003, when the first instances of fleek appeared, I was not a teenager and fleek has always been a teenage word. Of course, those that are on fleek now, no longer use the word “fleek,” so those that still use it sound out of touch….so we’ll say fleek is indeed a bad portmanteau.

On Fleek - bad or good portmanteau
Baaaaaaaad portmanteau.

Bromance

What’s a bromance? You probably know this already, but a bromance is a close, non familiar and non sexual relationship between two men. Bromance comes from the words “bro” (short for brother) and “romance,” and has been quite popular over the last twenty years. Bromance describes male relationships in movies, television shows, and even between two politicians.

Is bromance a good or a bad portmanteau?

BAD. Seriously, just no. Firstly, as a heterosexual male, I would never call any of my closest male friends “bros.” Secondly, I would never, ever, describe any friendship as a “bromance.” It just sounds stupid. Besides, why do we really need this word? Why not just call then “friends?”

Bromance - bad portmanteau.
Obama and Biden have a famous bromance.

Listicle

What is a listicle? Well….you’re reading one. A listicle is an article that relies on a list to tell its story. Coming from the words “list” and “article,” listicle describes the influx of blog entries that have flooded the internet for the last fifteen or so years.

Is listicle a good or a bad portmanteau?

Bad, in so many ways. First of all, the very fact that this word exists denotes a level of bad journalism. Sure, listicles have their place, but come one (website name redacted because I don’t want to get sued), not every single article has to be a listicle. I will myself admit to using, and over using listicles, but the problem is they’re too easy to write. I had to challenge myself to not write listicles on a regular basis. As a result, my content has gotten better. But I digress.

As far as the word itself, listicle just sounds wrong. I can’t tell if it sounds like an icicle, or a testicle, but it does not sound like something that one would normally read.

Listicle - bad portmanteau.
Listicles can poke your eyes out!

Frankenfood

What is Frankenfood? A term for genetically engineered produced. Taken from the words “food” and the name “Frankenstein.” It literally means foods that are sewn together of parts that don’t naturally fit together.

Is frankenfood a good portmanteau?

That’s a complex answer. I’ll say one thing….frankenfood is a brilliant propaganda tool, which was the point. Frankenfood was meant to meant to evoke images of monstrous tomatoes, just waiting to give the general public unknown and terrifying cancers.

As far as the sound of frankenfood itself…it rolls off the tongue nicely. The double F sound is both satisfying and fun to say.

With all that in mind, frankenfood is still a propaganda term. One meant to spread disinformation and fear. I don’t care how satisfying the term might sound as it rolls off your tongue….any term used in this matter is not welcome in the English language. By the way, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine “found no substantiated evidence that foods from GE crops were less safe than foods from non-GE crops.”

Frankenfood - bad portmanteau.

Fashionista

What is a fashionista? A fashionista is a person who is a devoted follower of fashion. Fashion comes from the words “fashion” and “ista” (a romance language suffix). Technically, fashionista isn’t necessarily a portmanteau, but as the inclusion of a foreign suffix is both intentional, I’ll allow it.

Is Fashionista a good or a bad portmanteau?

This might be controversial, but I’ll say fashionista is a good portmanteau. Firstly, “ista” is used naturally in other words, such as “barista” (which literally means “bartender).” Secondly, if we used the proper English suffix of “ist,” we get a word that kind of sounds boring. Fashionist sounds like someone who studies different fashions around the world, and not someone who is trendy and (ahem) on fleek. A fashionista, however, sounds exotic and, well, fashionable. Fashionista presents itself to be pretentious. Furthermore, while the definition drifts from person to person slightly, it does not suffer from the epic diva effect. Most people who use the term, use it correctly (or at least close enough to correct that no one cares).

With that said, the author who coined the word “fashionista” has formally apologized, and states the term is corny and dumb.

Fashionista....technically not a portmanteau.
Fashionistas HATE socks with sandals.

Groovadacious

What does groovidacious mean? Groovadacious means “totally freaking awesome beyond a doubt.” Combining the words “groovy” and bodacious” groovidacious is actually a second level portmanteau as “bodacious” is actually a smashing of the words “bold” and “audacious.”

Is groovadacious a good or a bad portmanteau?

That’s up to you to decide. I’ll admit…I made up the word groovadacious, and only, for this article, have decided on a spelling and an actual meaning (that a almost became an i). My point in including groovidacious in this list is simple. I want to encourage all of you to use groovadacious as I think it’s a really cool word. I mean…groovy and bodacious? Come on…groovadacious can be the next on fleek!

Groovadacious - GOOD portmanteau!!!!!

Final thoughts

Folks, feel free to make up your own portmanteaus. Just be careful. They might take on a life of their own. The man who coined “fashionista” regrets his creation. I might regret the term groovadacious. The person who invented sharrow should be punched in their stupid face. Ok, ok, that’s taking it too far.

I will suggest you get some feedback on your word before you go full throttle with it. What you might think is clever, might just be annoying and stupid to the rest of the world. Thank god people hate the word phablet, am I right?

Finally, use words responsibly. Do not make up new words for propaganda purposes. That’s lazy argumentation. Do not use words to emphasise lazy practices (such as listicle). Do, however, know your audience. If your word is intended for teens, don’t give a damn what the a 45 year old blogger says. But seriously kids, you know you want to make the word groovidacious the next cool word. Come on!

I'm Aaron, and I am the owner of this site.

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