Merriam-Webster defines a portmanteau as a word whose sound or meaning is derived by blending existing words or phrases. Fusing words into new terms is a popular grammar tactic among advertisers, news reporters, and social media posters, and many portmanteaus find their way into our permanent vocabulary. To help you stay abreast of popular word mergers, here are ten of the hottest expression combinations and the meanings behind them.
1. Brexit – As Britains approached a 2016 referendum concerning the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, political pundits coined a noun for an outcome that initially seemed preposterous. But with the vote favoring UK’s exit from the EU, Brexit has joined the world’s universal vocabulary.
2. Brangelina – Long before their wedding and recent divorce, actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were joined together in linguistic matrimony by the Hollywood press. The former super-couple fell in love while filming the movie Mr. & Mrs. Smith in 2005, and their adoring fans have been intrigued by Brangelina ever since. News of their breakup actually fueled the term’s resurgence.
3. Advertorial – To be sure, advertisers love creating portmanteaus. So when they needed a name for those special print articles – the ones written to resemble real news stories and conveniently placed alongside advertisements for products related to the articles – they nicknamed the stories advertorials. Readers, on the other hand, have their own name for the sneaky practice: subvertising.
4. Affluenza – Despite its infectious-sounding name, affluenza is not so much a disease as it is a legal defense. Turns out that affluent families who bestow too many privileges on their children risk having those children grow up to do horrific things – such as running over people while driving drunk. Currently, the only known remedy for the condition is prison time.
5. Frenemy – Among the many social pressures facing teenagers today are malicious classmates who falsely pretend to be their friends. But frenemies, as these disingenuous types are called, also lurk beyond high school walls and purportedly include celebrities (Taylor Swift and Katy Perry?) and world leaders (Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin?).
6. Gigafactory – Tesla Motors and Panasonic Corporation are spending billions to build the world’s largest manufacturing source for lithium-ion batteries. Tesla needs the Gigafactory’s batteries for its increasingly popular electric cars, and the new plant’s home state Nevada could use the 6,500 jobs the plant should eventually create. What’s more, the world needs another word containing the “giga” prefix.
7. Mazelations – When part-time singer and songwriter Larry Robbins first heard the word Mazelations, he just knew the combination of Mazel Tov and congratulations was a perfect phrase for the next big celebration and party tune. So Robbins wrote and recorded the song “Mazelations,” which features a strong dance beat, a sing-a-long chorus, and an all-inclusive wish for happiness and “dreams that come true.”
8. Tweens – In between childhood and the teenage years lies a period of grave uncertainty often called preadolescence. Usually considered to range from ten to 12 years of age, the tweens demographic is a marketing sweet spot for selling makeup, Chick-fil-A, and videogames. For parents, it’s the all-too-short pause ‘tween adorable and aggravating.
9. Appiness – For an increasing number of people, true happiness correlates to the number of software applications they’ve downloaded to their mobile devices. Whether or not they actually use an app seems irrelevant to its contribution to their delusional bliss.
10. Republicrat – At first, Republicrat seems to positively describe a middle-of-the-isle politician who’s willing to put aside party differences for the sake of progress. In reality, the word has a derogatory meaning and suggests that all politicians are similarly influenced by special-interest group money – so much so that ours is actually a one-party system. Of course, Republicrats blame everything on the Demopublicans.