The other day, while doing a crossword puzzle, I ran across this clue: portmanteau imbibement. I filled in all the adjacent boxes I could figure out around that word—above, below, left, and right. Finally, I conceded defeat—I knew that an imbibement was something to drink, but I needed to look up the word “portmanteau.”
What a cool word! I now plan to use it every single chance I get (pronounced port-man’-toe). It’s the term for blending two or more words and their meanings into one new word.
The crossword puzzle word term for “portmanteau imbibement” ended up being “alcopop,” a fruity alcoholic drink like a wine cooler which combines alcohol and a sweet-flavored beverage. (I also found out that these words could be called “centaur words” after the mythical combination of a man and a horse, but I like “portmanteau” better. I think “portmanteau” sounds classier than “centaur.” I’m a closet word snob. So sue me.)
Then I realized that the English language is jam-packed with portmanteaus, many that I am familiar with and more than a few that were new to me. There’s “frenemy” (an enemy who pretends to be a friend), “prooming” (pet grooming), “locavore” (eats only locally grown food), and “bromance” (guy friends who are extremely close and spend large amounts of time together).
There are “staycations” for people who are too broke to travel, “cremains” for people who don’t want to be embalmed and en-coffined, “beautility” for people who like their refrigerators to also be pretty, and “sporks” for people who want only one utensil for both soup and peas.
Food engineers have come up with “pluots” (plum/apricots), Clamato juice, and beefalo burgers. Whole countries have been combined to form new countries like “Tanzania” (Tanganyika and Zanzibar). Mexicans who move to Texas are called “Texicans.” And famous couples are re-labeled as “Brangelina, “Billary,” and “TomKat.” People are chocoholics, foodaholics, and workaholics.
Right now, you are reading my “blog,” which is just a portmanteau for “web log.”
Not content to leave well enough alone and say that there are enough portmanteaus in this world to last everyone a lifetime, I came up with a few of my own. It seems that the world of retirement is sadly lacking in portmanteaus. So here are my contributions:
RetirVee (retiree + RV) - a retired person who travels in an RV
Pensiontentiary (pension + penitentiary) - condition of people who planned to do fun things in retirement but invested in Tom Petters’ Ponzi scheme instead
Grammaholics (gramma + alcoholic) - older women who need a little alcopop with their cereal to get moving in the morning
Hypertirees – (hyperactive + retiree) - retirees who accomplish WAY too much every day and make all the other retirees look lazy by comparison
Hypochoneezers (hypochondriac + geezers) – old people who insist on telling you about all their illnesses, surgeries, and medications
Oldageezer (old + age + geezer) because we are sick to death of being called senior citizens
Portmanteau: see if you can work the word into a conversation today. After you see all the looks of admirect (admiration + respect) you get, you’ll be glad you did.