The first time I heard Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie referred to as “Brangelina,” I admit I laughed out loud. Not only did it reflect the “mergement” of their individual brands and personalities, but it was the perfect way to describe the famous “let’s-do-everything-together” couple.
From Bennifer to A-Rod, many clever neologisms have crept into our everyday vernacular—but these new portmanteaux (a combination of two, or more, words and their definitions into one word) are not just for celebrities any more.
The history of portmanteau words is a long one. Words like “smog” (coined by blending smoke and fog), “motel” (motor and hotel) and “newscast” (news and broadcast) have become familiar and instantly recognizable parts of the English language.
More recently, portmanteaux have crept into our marketing speak, as they can provide the ideal way to describe a complex idea in just one or two cleverly crafted words that will be instantly understood by readers/listeners.
Call it creative grammar or the result of a 140-character limit, these new memorable mashups are rapidly becoming part of our cultural landscape. While you may not find these useful in your day-to-day copywriting, I promise you’ll find a way to incorporate them into your everyday conversations:
- Glamping: Headed on an African safari? Who would choose to sleep on a bedroll on the hard ground when you can spend the night in a beautiful white tent, on a raised platform (to avoid snakes!), tucked into a cozy bed covered in a down comforter? The word has become so popular an entire travel company took ownership by rebranding itself.
- Frenemy: You shared your big idea with your boss. They sold it up the food chain as their idea and got a raise, a promotion and the corner office. You hold friends close, but hold these folks closer.
- Hangry: How you feel at 7 p.m. after you learn what your boss did with your idea. Pass the ketchup.
- Fauxthority: Just because they wrote a book on a topic doesn’t mean they know anything about it. (Can you say “ghost writer”?)
- Fandemonium: Fans of a celeb/performer/event take over the sidewalk, road, and surrounding area.
- Socially bipolar: You’re successful, popular and well paid. You get to a business conference, don’t recognize anyone and stand alone, sipping your Merlot. Okay, perhaps not an official portmanteau, but you get the picture.
- Scentsational: It smells as good as it looks and tastes.
- Sexting: Um … I think this is self-explanatory.
And, of course, what list of portmanteaux would be complete without the word “Wikipedia”—the blending of the Hawaiian word “wiki” (which means fast) and “encyclopedia.” Interestingly, if you search the word “wiki,” you’ll find that it now refers to a web application that “allows people to add, modify or delete content in collaboration with others.” That definition, of course, comes from Wikipedia.