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Portmant-eau I Get It!

May 11, 2023

Earlier this year, I switched roles at Research Director. I am now on the Information Systems team. We are referred to as IS, InfoSys, and “hey you.” Okay, I’m joking about that last one. I bet you’re wondering, “Okay, so? What does your team’s name have to do with anything?”

I’m getting there …

When my team was first constructed, we exclusively went by InfoSys. InfoSys, which combines the words information and systems, is a portmanteau.

According to the OED Online, a portmanteau is a case or bag for carrying clothing and other belongings when traveling, hinged at the back to open into two equal parts … oh, wait … that’s not right. Except, it kind of is. A portmanteau is also defined as a word combining the meaning of two or more words and blending the sounds to create one word.

In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, Humpty Dumpty, of all “people”, uses the first meaning of the word to explain to Alice the unusual words used to describe the Jabberwocky; slithy (slimy and lithe) and mimsy (miserable and flimsy). He says “You see it’s like a portmanteau—there are two meanings packed up into one word.” Yes, I was just as surprised as you to learn that Humpty Dumpty knew Alice in Wonderland.

There are more common portmanteaus than slithy and mimsy though. We use others almost every day. I know you’ve probably attended seminars on the web – webinars – and don’t forget your favorite meal on the weekend is breakfast and lunch – brunch! Bring on the bottomless mimosas!

Recently I got three signs to write about this topic. I know it’s very meta to talk about the idea of a blog inside the blog, but I figured you would like a peek behind the proverbial curtain. The first sign was on Split Second, which is a new game show on Game Show Network. The host asked the players to come up with the two words that combine to form the company names of Groupon (group and coupon), Comcast (communication and broadcast), and Instagram (instant and telegram).

The second sign occurred during a group chat I was having with my wife and her siblings. My brother-in-law was sending us pictures of his brand new dream truck. He and his fellow truck owners celebrate MoPar (motor parts) Monday.

The third reference came in a meeting earlier. I was talking about how InfoSys is a portmanteau. Karen Morriss, our fearless Director of Client Services, joked I should write a blog about it. I laughed it off. Her statement was obviously a throwaway. She didn’t actually think I would write a blog on this topic because why would she? What does that even have to do with what we all do? Unintentional challenge accepted! I couldn’t ignore the signs. How would I even be able to put together 500 words on a word that combines other words though? What would I focus on?

Wait, there’s my in; the word “word” and words in general. You have to contemplate what you say on-air. You can’t go in unprepared. You have to think about a multitude of factors: the breakdown of your audience, your format, your advertisers, etc. You’re not going to spend too much time talking about sports on an AC-formatted station, or jazz on a sports station (except maybe if you live in Utah).

One other thing to think about is your type of language. Do you use slang or do you use language that is more formal? By the way, depending on who you ask, “slang” is also a portmanteau. We just aren’t entirely sure which words it combines. My guess is it is derived from shortened language but some etymological dictionaries say special and language.

Do you need some help figuring out what to say? Contact us if you want some help. Let’s build a bromance with our companies! Sorry, I don’t think there is a female equivalent portmanteau out there, but maybe we can come up with one together.

-Matt Weaver, Information Systems Coordinator