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Oct 18, 2016 09:36 AM EDT

History and Origin of Some Famous Portmanteaus

Portmanteaus
Portmanteaus are like suitcases which contain a combination of two or three words to produce a new word. Its use was popularized by Lewis Caroll in 'Through the Looking Glass.'
(Photo : Timur Emek/Getty Images for BUNTE)

Portmanteau is an interesting part of the English language, a product of combining two words. We use them often but it's a joy to discover how these words come into out English vocabulary.

Portmanteau

Since it is about portmanteaus, it is interesting to note that the word itself is a description of its nature. Portmanteau is a combination of two French words 'porter' and 'manteau' which means 'to carry' and 'cloak' respectively. It earned its popularity when Lewis Carroll used it in his novel Through the Looking Glass where Humpty Dumpty explained to Alice the strange words she hears in Wonderland.

"Like a portmanteau - there are two meanings packed up into one word," he said

Turducken

Ever wonder what a 'turducken' is? It is actually a dish which is a combination of three birds: turkey, duck, and chicken. Specifically, it is a deboned turkey, stuffed with a deboned duck that has a deboned chicken inside it. Got it?

Velcro

Almost everybody knows and has used velcro, the fastener which is made up of two opposing pieces of fabric. George de Mestral invented velcro in 1948; however, he only gave the name much later from a combination of two French words, 'velours' and 'croche,' to describe his invention. Velcro means 'hooked velvet' although it may not feel like a velvet.

Smog

Most, if not all, know what smog is, the chemical-smoke-infused fog that covers most major cities in the world nowadays. The word was coined by Dr. Henry Des Voeux in 1905 to distinguish the difference between real fog and the dangerous smoke fog emitted by coal factories in London during that time.

Spork

Spork is that hybrid utensil which combines a spoon and a fork. It was invented and patented by Samuel W. Francis in 1847. However, his original invention included a knife on the edge. Imagine if the design survived, it would not just be spork but, most probably, kniforkon. Spork, on the other hand, entered the English language in 1909.

Brunch

The word 'brunch' entered the English language when an English columnist wrote a piece titled "Brunch: A Plea" which asked for a mid-day meal on Sundays which, he said, would make the lives of Saturday night carousers much easier because it gives them enough time to rest and sleep rather than be force to wake up early just to eat breakfast. Thus, we have to thank those Saturday revelers for bringing us this wonderful meal into our lives and our vocabulary as well.

Madcap

This "crazy" portmanteau came from combining an Old English and Latin word together. The old English word gemaedde which means 'out of one's mind' and the Latin caput for 'head.' It came into use in the English language way back in the 1580s.

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