Is Writing More Interesting with a Portmanteau?

Some blokes in London may know a portmanteau as a leather traveling bag, but that’s not really the kind of portmanteau that’s going to help you find your unique writing voice. Instead, I’m talking about the writing device of the same name. A portmanteau is when you create a new word (neologism) by combining two or more other words.

Part of the reason why you may be interested in using portmanteaus in your writing is in the interest of brevity, since you can say the same thing in one word rather than two, but the bigger motivation is to make for more interesting writing. You can always improve your grammar, but you also need to have good content to back it up.

I remember Ed Lau once told me that he loved using “socioeconomic stratification” in his sociology essays. This term made him sound sophisticated and intelligent, when all he was really discussing was the distinction between the rich and poor classes in a society. Does this border into the realm of elitism? Perhaps, but it also makes the writing sound more intriguing and captivating, doesn’t it?

Other common portmanteaus include the following:

  • smoke + fog = smog
  • breakfast + lunch = brunch
  • growl + rumble = grumble
  • Chinese + English = Chinglish
  • work + alcoholic = workaholic
  • net + etiquette = netiquette
  • emotion + icon = emoticon
  • spoon + fork = spork
  • blog + marathon = blogathon
  • Brad (Pitt) + Angelina (Jolie) = Brangelina

I’m not suggesting that you should try to force a portmanteau into every article that you write, but you may be able to jar the attention of your readers by including one from time to time. It could even be more interesting if you created wholly new words altogether, inventing a neologism that just might pick up pace and popularity elsewhere. Take the constructive criticism as it comes, but don’t be afraid to experiment with portmanteaus too.

After all, if we can combine breakfast and lunch into brunch, why can’t we combine lunch and dinner into linner? lupper?