You have now entered the fun house that is Five-Phrase (Freaky!) Friday, Number 11. Proceed with bug eyes and funny bones as we explore the world of shape shifting, mutant hybrids, and murderous intentions–in words and phrases, that is.
Last week, I foretold of a unique linguistic phenomenon exemplified by the word “readaholic.” Like “shopaholic” and “workaholic”–but not like “alcoholic”–this type of word is known as a portmanteau. Pronounced PORT – man – TOE.
French for “(it) carries (the) cloak,” the word portmanteau’s original use was to describe a type of suitcase that opens into two halves. In linguistic terms, a portmanteau is the joining of two words to make a completely new word from only part of each of the original two.
The compound noun, by contrast, contains two words that have remained intact from their original states. An example would be the word “doghouse.” The two words in a standard compound noun are like buddies joined at the hip, whereas a portmanteau is that set of conjoined twins who share vital organs. Freaky. . . .
Designer dog breeds are a place where we often see this happen: Labradoodle (Labrador + poodle) and puggle (pug + beagle), for instance. Although not conjoined twins, designer dogs are genuine animal hybrids, assuming they come from a reputable breeder.
The Internet, cell phones, and social networking have spawned other creatures such as sexting (sex + texting) and, of course, blog (web + log) and vlog (video + log).
Food-related examples of portmanteaus further illustrate this melding effect:
cheeseburger = cheese + hamburger
spork = spoon + fork
the kids’ breakfast cereal (Count) Chocula = chocolate + Dracula
zombilicious = zombie + delicious
A portmanteau can be a delightful outcome of linguistic invention and creative word play–or a source of great annoyance to language purists, and confusing to people just trying to keep up with regular English.
So that’s the world of portmanteaus in a . . . suitcase.
Now, for our feature freak show, . . .
This week’s five phrases are gerund-based names of music bands with a Halloween feel. Each band name’s first word is a gerund (pron. JAIR – und), an -ing ending verb form that acts as a noun, specifically an action:
(The) Smashing Pumpkins *
What are some other gerund-y band names you’re familiar with?
Can you think of movie, TV show, book, or song titles that begin with or contain gerunds?
Beware of the overuse of gerunds (a habit of mine), running into vampire worlds, butterfly-winged bullets, Mr. Jones’ strange luggage, sharp cutlery, jack-o’-lantern vandals, devilish dance floors, psycho killers, weapon-toting trick-or-treaters, green knights, headless horsemen, portmanteau experiments gone awry, bad music, and bad grammar–but not witches; witches are okay–while you have a . . .
. . . Happy Halloween!
Protect the great pumpkins and phrases.
And I’ll see you in November–National Novel Writing Month!
- Number 3 has been known as both “The Smashing Pumpkins” and “Smashing Pumpkins.” When presented along with the article “the,” the word “smashing” becomes an adjective modifying the noun “pumpkins.” As in, they were a “smashing success,” which they were.