LifesendPosted: March 24, 2021
This excellent word blend malaphor was spotted in a New York Times interview of Bernie Sanders. Here’s the context:
“But in this legislation, let us be clear we have gotten for a family of four — a working-class family struggling to put food on the table for their kids — a check of $5,600. Now people who have money may not think that’s a lot of money. But when you are struggling day and night to pay the bills, to worry about eviction, that is going to be a lifesend for millions and millions of people.”
This is a congruent conflation of “godsend” and “lifesaver”, both referring to a very helpful or valuable event, person, or thing. As I have noted in past posts, malaphors are usually unintentional idiom blends, but they can also be an unintentional blend of two or more words. I have many examples in my first book, “He Smokes Like a Fish and Other Malaphors”, available on Amazon.
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 include “Buckminster Palace” (Buckingham and Westminster, and/or possibly Buckminster Fuller) “split-minute decision” (split second and last minute), and the one submitted today, lifesend.
A big thank you to Ann Hodges Lynn for spotting this one and sending it in!