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Portmanteaus and single word malaphors

English: Illustration to the poem Jabberwocky....

English: Illustration to the poem Jabberwocky. A work by English illustrator Sir John Tenniel (1820-1914). First published in Carroll, Lewis. 1871. Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As you can see from the subject line, I am not delivering a malaphor of the day.  I thought I would sprinkle a few hopefully interesting discussions about malaphors and other wordplay issues on my blog.

Someone asked me if my word blend malaphors are actually portmanteaus. I don’t think so. The main difference is that a portmanteau is an intentional word blend while a malaphor is unintentional.  There are other differences:

A portmanteau is a combination of two (or more) words or morphemes, and their definitions, into one new word. A portmanteau word generally combines both sounds and meanings, as in smog, coined by blending smoke and fog. More generally, it may refer to any term or phrase that combines two or more meanings, for instance, the term “wurly” when describing hair that is both wavy and curly.

The word “portmanteau” was first used in this context by Lewis Carroll in the book Through the Looking-Glass (1871), in which Humpty Dumpty explains to Alice the coinage of the unusual words in Jabberwocky, where “slithy” means “lithe and slimy” and “mimsy” is “flimsy and miserable”. Humpty Dumpty explains the practice of combining words in various ways by telling Alice,

‘You see it’s like a portmanteau—there are two meanings packed up into one word.’

My single word blend malaphors are unconscious blends of words to make an unintentional new word. The word sounds or looks correct at first blush, but then on closer examination is incorrect. Examples so far on my website are “Buckminster Palace” (Buckingham and Westminster, and/or possibly Buckminster Fuller) and “split-minute decision” (split second and last minute).

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One Comment on “Portmanteaus and single word malaphors”

  1. Nancy Green says:

    David: Very interesting. Nancy Green


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