Frankenwords: they’re alive! But for how long?

It seems you can’t open a paper or laptop these days without being ambushed by a new portmanteau word. They cover every walk of life: smirting and gaydar, guesstimate and Chunnel, metrosexual, stagflation, glamping, frappuccino and Buffyverse. They were even deemed worthy of their own round in the recent final of Only Connect. We have, I think it’s fair to say, reached peakmanteau.

The appeal of blend words is easy enough to fathom. For one thing, they’re brand spanking new. Aren’t they?

Some have been with us for over half a century: liger (lion + tiger), napalm (naphthenic + palmitic), paratroops (parachute + troops), ginormous (gigantic + enormous), transistor (transfer + resistor), Tollywood (Tollygunge + Hollywood) and telethon (television + marathon). Motel (motor + hotel) dates from 1925, sexpert from 1924. The Baker Street and Waterloo Railway officially changed its name to the Bakerloo Line in 1906. Smog (smoke + fog) is first attested in 1905, brunch (in the UK, not the US, incidentally) in 1896, prissy (prim + sissy) in 1895, electrocute (electricity + execute) in 1889. Lewis Carroll coined chortle (chuckle + snort) and galumph (gallop + triumph) in 1871. Oxbridge (Oxford + Cambridge) was invented by William Makepeace Thackeray in 1849, albeit as a fictional university (there was also a Camford); the sense of both institutions combined is first recorded in 1957. Someone essayed slimsy in 1845, but the world evidently wasn’t ready. Squiggle (squirm + wriggle) seems to have been around since at least 1804. Among other terms that failed to endure are squirearchy (1796), niniversity (1590) and foolosopher (1549 – sorry, Jamiroquai).

Read more: The Guardian

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