Please explain "portmanteau words", and give examples.
A portmanteau word is one created from combining two existing words. "Portmanteau" itself is such a word. Portmanteau is French, for a dual-purpose suitcase able to hold coats and other items. It's a combination of "porte" (carry) and "manteau" (coat).
The Jabberwocky poem by Louis Carroll in Through the Looking-Glass, a sequel to Alice in Wonderland, is full of portmanteaus.
The first stanzas (paragraphs) of that famous nonsensical and yet profoundly brilliant poem reads:
'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"
He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought-
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.
And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!
One, two! One, two! and through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.
"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.
This poem is a perfect example to demonstrate the limitlessness of human consciousness if we are not shackled by the limitations of the very language we use every day. For me, a Chinese, it is a poem I totally enjoy without having to get to the bottom of its meanings.
Then again, getting to the bottom of its exact meaning is perhaps not Carroll's purpose. In fact Lewis Carroll is said to have claimed that he did not know exactly what some of those coinages were from.
Anyways, some of the words in this poem could be guessed out outright, others being explained in the book or later by the author. "Slithy", for example, is a blend of "slimy" and "lithe", "mimsy" meaning "miserable" and "flimsy".
And the word "chortle", a combination of "chuckle" and "snort", even made its way into proper English today. It means a throaty laugh.
Now, a few recent sightings of portmanteau words in the news:
1. Spanglish – Spanish English:
Chang Lee, who runs a clothes shop just north of the border, explains in fluent Spanglish that Mexicans are spending "too mucho time" waiting to cross, which leaves too little time for shopping - Good neighbours make fences, The Economist, October 2, 2008.
2. smog – smoke and fog:
Olympians prepare for battle with Beijing's smog – A headline, International Herald Tribune, January 24, 2008).
3. Oxbridge – Oxford and Cambridge:
Do you have an Oxbridge mind? – Another headline, The Independent, October 16, 2008.
4. docudrama – documentary, drama:
Battle in Seattle is a docudrama that chokes to death on its good intentions - Movie review: Battle in Seattle - 2 out of 5 stars, Orlando Sentinel, October 15, 2008.