Two Words: Portmanteau & Snuck

Portmanteau and Snuck

Likely you know what a portmanteau (port-man-toe) is, you just do not have any idea that you should call it a portmanteau.  It is French and Latin, and is made up of the French word “porter” and Latin “manteau.”

When the term is used as a noun it refers to a large leather suitcase or trunk that is made up of two roughly equal halves.  Often this takes the form of a trunk that will stand up on its own when opened.  A use in a sentence might be “He packed all his belongings in his old portmanteau and left town.”

The other use of the word also involved two halves of something, but not a suitcase.  In the adjective form it is used to describe when two words come together to make a new word.  We use these in common discussion today, we just do not know that there is a term for them.

  • Smog is the combination of Smoke and Fog
  • Affluenza is the slang term for Affluence and Influenza
  • Bodacious is slang for Bold and Audacious
  • Electrocution is a combination of Electricity and Execution
  • Metrosexual is a combination of Metropolitan and Heterosexual
  • Cosplay is the combination of Costume and Play
  • Motel is the combination of Motor and Hotel
  • Stagflation is the combination of Stagnation and Inflation
  • Pilk is now the repulsive Pepsi and Milk
  • Brunch is the combination of Breakfast and Lunch
  • Shopaholic is slang for Shop and Alcoholic
  • McMansion is slang for McDonald’s and Mansion

To make this even more confusing, the result of a portmanteau is a “morpheme.”   A word formed from the blending of two words and it seems that these two words are interchangeable in common use, although we would doubt many drop these terms in common conversation.

Red Divider

Snuck is a “word” that is in common use and when used people usually understand what the speaker is trying to convey.  But “snuck” is actually a word that creeped into our vocabulary as the past tense of sneak.

Sneaked is the correct past tense of sneak and was used correctly until for some reason the slang or improper “snuck” started to creep up on it.  Today snuck is used so often that even if it is a slang, non-word, it seems destined to survive.  It has been reported that college professors often lack the knowledge to omit it from their vocabulary or to correct students.

It is always said that English is such a popular language because even when spoken poorly people can understand what you are trying to say.  Snuck falls into that category of poorly constructed but easily understood