My new favourite word is portmanteau. I think the word itself is pretty great but the meaning/s are also great.

A portmanteau is a suitcase with two compartments, and a portmanteau word is something like a contraction when two words are blended. The word was first used in this way by Lewis Carrol in Through the Looking Glass. I will let Wikipedia explain:

The usage of the word ‘portmanteau’ in this sense first appeared in Lewis Carroll‘s book Through the Looking-Glass (1871),[1] in which Humpty Dumpty explains to Alice the coinage of the unusual words in Jabberwocky:[9]

  • “‘slithy’ means ‘lithe and slimy’… You see it’s like a portmanteau—there are two meanings packed up into one word”
  • “‘Mimsy’ is ‘flimsy and miserable’ (there’s another portmanteau … for you)”.

Indonesians love portmanteau words. They make there way into formal language all the time. I think these examples might be contractions rather than portmanteau words, but I’d rather not be a stickler if being a stickler means excluding myself from using my new favourite word.

For example: partai politik (political party) becomes Parpol. And that’s just the beginning. If a phrase cannot be made into an acronym (also a favourite in Indonesia) it will become a portmaneau word.

An example of something that is half way between an acronym and a portmanteau (can a linguist help me out here?):

Badan Perencanaan dan Pembangunan Nasional becomes Bappenas. Efficient isn’t it!

I think I will create a list of Indonesian portmanteau words. But first I will do some work…


1 thought on “Portmanteau

  1. Josh

    Interesting. …And did you know that ‘contractions’ in pregnancies with twins are called ‘portmanteaux’? And that it’s called a ‘portmanteau’ pregnancy? And that if the twins are Siamese it is called a ‘portmanteau birth’?!

    Won’t find that in Wikipedia!

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