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Mimsy, chortle, and galumph: Alice in Wonderland and the portmanteau

Mimsy, chortle, and galumph: Alice in Wonderland and the portmanteau

Let’s go glamping. Oh, wait, don’t know what I’m talking about? Vogue introduced glamping – a portmanteau of ‘glamorous’ + ‘camping’ that came into use in the mid 2000s – into the high fashion lexicon in October of 2011 with its suggestion to go pitch a tent and sleep in the woods, decked out in Céline and Hermès. A portmanteau, in the linguistic sense, is a word formed by blending elements from two or more distinct words to create…

What do you call a librarian on Tumblr?

What do you call a librarian on Tumblr?

There is nothing, it seems, that the Internet loves so much as . . . well, cats falling off draining boards, but second to that, it’s abbreviations. As technology and social media expand, and communities continue to grow across the Internet, so language and language use develop and adapt to cater to new situations. From Twitterati to netiquette, a whole raft of new words (often created from existing words) have sprung into being. We recently ask…

Zebra crossings: what zonkeys tell us about our love of hybrid words


By Whitney Carpenter. CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons Despite the wall-to-wall coverage of the royal baby born last week, some media outlets found time to report on another notable birth: that of Italy’s rare donkey-zebra hybrid, Ippo, which is being called a zonkey. Zonkey, it turns out, is only one of several words for the semi-striped offspring of zebras and other equine mammals. For whatever reason, these creatures have inspired generatio…

Which words do we love to hate?


…hat the language is being debased if they hear that someone had a fabulous, wonderful, terrific day. A ginormous portmanteau is not everyone’s bag Ginormous also raised sufficient ire to be on the list, with several people complaining that it is a portmanteau word (or, as one commenter phrased it: ‘just a made-up combination of two words’). It is worth noting that few people have the same objection to motel, brainiac, brunch, camcorder, or chortl…


From muggle to whizzpopper: invented words in children’s literature

When Roald Dahl invented words such as lickswishy, which describes the way English boys taste to giants in The BFG (1982), and whizzpoppers, the enjoyable propelling farts produced by the same giants after they drink frobskottle, he was following in a tradition among children’s writers of coining neologisms that dates back at least as far as Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice found there (1871). In Carroll’s story Humpty Du…

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The Burds and the Bees

A word from...

…th her politics or her persona, it is odd to so excoriate her for what amounts to a minor and relatively amusing portmanteau (a portmanteau is, among other things, a new word created by blending elements of two existing words – in this case refute and repudiate). She may not have quite the same linguistic flair exhibited by Lewis Carroll when he coined bandersnatch and chortle, but it hardly seems worth all the sound and fury. The former Alaskan…

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The language of fandom: from Twihards to Tolkienites

The language of fandom

As Breaking Dawn, the film adaptation of the fourth and final Twilight novel is released, we take a look at the language of fandom. Fandom and cultural discourse What is it about fan culture? Why does it seem like ‘Team Edward’ vs ‘Team Jacob’ has become the biggest cultural divider since Coke vs Pepsi? How can we explain why a United States Supreme Court Justice nominee was asked to choose between the ubiquitous vampire and werewolf during a S…


20 words that originated in the 1920s

The 1920s wasn’t just a period of decadence and flappers in a post-war haze of happiness. While The Great Gatsby drew attention to a world of insouciant pleasure-seeking, the 1920s also saw plenty of words enter the language. Some seem apt for the era, some might surprise, and all twenty selected below have survived for almost a century. It girl / It boy (n.) A term still in use by many magazines and websites, It girl is first found in…

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