WegnersPosted: August 17, 2022
Followers of malaphors know that a malaphor can be a word blend as well as an idiom blend (see the many word blends posted on this site by typing in “word blend”). This one made national news. Mehmet Oz, the Republican candidate for the United States Senate representing Pennsylvania, posted a video about shopping at “Wegners”. He clearly says Wegners in the video. However, he was in Redner’s, a grocery chain in Eastern Pennsylvania. He was confusing the store with Wegmans, another grocery chain found in Eastern Pennsylvania, creating the word blend Wegners.. Here is the video:
The word blend has gone viral, with postings from the fake grocery store Wegners. His opponent, John Fetterman, has capitalized on the goof:
This is not a portmanteau. Here’s the difference.
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).