Just say no to portmanteaus


Here’s one of the culprits. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

I am sired! (That’s a portmanteau of sick and tired.)

It’s a lot of bullacleWhip (a portmanteau of two substances that are equally terrible).

Please.

A person wearing jorts is only marginally more ridiculous than a person saying “jorts.”

It was Grexit that pushed me over the edge. No, it was Drachmail. No, it was Renesmee.

Some unnatural combinations work. The occasional centaur or mermaid or chimera can be delightful. But for the most part, taking the hind part of one thing and the front part of another and forcing them together makes a hind part of everyone.

It’s wrong. It’s obscene. It’s wrobscene.

I want to kangle everyone involved in the making of these words. I want to tear out their innards with a spork.

We have a perfectly good language full of perfectly beautiful words. Please, stop making verbal centipedes out of them, attaching them where they have no business being attached and forcing them to crawl around, miserable and mangled, until they limp away into the darkness to die.

I have nothing against good portmanteaus. History abounds in them. Stagflation. Brunch. Bodacious. Turducken. Cankles, even. A good sprinkling of portmanteaus is acceptable, to add flavor.

But we are living in a glut. “A glutmanteau!” someone exclaims. No. “A portmantut!” Stop! Just stop! Whenever two words are glimpsed in public together, we insist on flinging them into this unnatural coupling. It’s foul. It’s obscene. Chindown? Taxmageddon? That doesn’t even make sense!

Healthymagination, from GE? Funbelievabubble, from Hubba Bubba? Brostache? Just stop. Please. Jup. Stost. Whatever it takes.

First it was just a creeping trend with celebrity couples. TomKat. Brangelina. As though, somehow, the effort of saying “Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie” — or “Pitt and Jolie”, for that matter — were too much for our fragile systems.

Then suddenly, portmanteaus were everywhere. They were a substitute for creativity. Everyone was shoving words together, willynilly, in a miserable neologistical orgy. Dramedy. Linsanity. Jazzercise. They were multiplying like flies. They were multiflying. (Oh God, make it stop!) Now listen to us. We sound like newspeaking idiots. It’s enough to make me scry. (The more acceptable of the two portmanteaus of cry and scream.)

Yes, I know Shakespeare did it first. “Twangling. Gnarling.” I know. Shakespeare did a lot of things that weren’t right. I hear he seldom flossed. I hear he bequeathed Anne Hathaway his second best bed. I hear under the rose he wrote naughty poetry in a loose hexameter.

There are creative ways of playing with words. There’s the application of old roots to new nouns. Dinosaur is a combination of terrible and lizard. But these portmanteaus are a combination of terrible and terrible.

Shoving two words into large hadron colliders and sending them reeling into one another, then demanding that everyone use the resulting term, is about as creative as shoving two wrong pieces of a puzzle together. What’s wrong with Greek Exit, for crying out loud? Sure, “Greek Exit” sounds a little like a euphemism, but most standard nouns with the word Greek in front of them do. A Grexit, on the other hand, sounds like something with large ears that you find chewing on the side of your car.

And the list goes on. Pinterest. Obamacare. Gaydar. Snowmageddon. Anything -pocalypse or -mageddon, really. It’s a portmanteaucalypse.

Make it stop. Please.

It’s a load of ship. And that’s a portmanteau.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day. She is the author of "A Field Guide to Awkward Silences".

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