Writing for Business

Oct 29 2012   11:27AM GMT

Combined words and Lewis Carroll

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?

What do you call words like phablet,  Kinect and electrocute, that are each made up of parts of two words?
a. retronyms
b. portmanteaus
c. anacronyms

Bonus questions: What two words are each of those made from?
a. phablet = ______ + ________
b. Kinect = _______ + ________
c. electrocute = _______ + _______

Answer: b.

Bonus questions:
a. phablet = phone + tablet
b. Kinect = kinetic + connect
c. electrocute = electric + execute


Lewis Carroll used the “portmanteau” to describe combination words in “Through the Looking Glass.” A portmanteau is an archaic word for “suitcase,” itself  a portmanteau created from the French words for carry (porter) and cloak (manteau).

In “Through the Looking Glass,” Humpty Dumpty explained words like “slithy” (slimy + lithe) and “mimsy” (miserable + flimsy) in the nonsense poem “Jabberwocky” to Alice:

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

Read more about portmanteaus.

Read more about retronyms and anacronyms.

Follow me on Twitter @tao_of_grammar

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