Lewis Carroll’s poem “Jabberwocky” (http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/171647) is a fantastic tool to use for pronunciation. Because most of the words in the poem are invented words and have no real definitions, students can read the poem aloud and focus entirely on the phonics involved in pronouncing the words. Carroll even invented a word to describe some of his invented words! He called them portmanteau words. A portmanteau is an old-fashioned suitcase that opens up to two different but equal-sized compartments.
A portmanteau word is one word made up of elements of two other words to create something both new and familiar–”two meanings packed into one word,” as Carroll put it. “Slithy,” for instance, was a portmanteau of “slimy” and “lithe,” according to Carroll. The word “chortle”–created by Carroll from “chuckle” and “snort”–became so popular that it is now actually in the dictionary as a real word!
We use portmanteau words all the time without even knowing their initial origin. Here are a few that might already be in your everyday conversation!
BIOPIC: This one is made from the words “biographical” and “picture.” It refers to a movie that tells the life story of someone famous.
BLOG: Like this one! Blog is made from the words “web” (as in the world wide web, or internet) and “log” (another word for a type of diary or journal).
BRUNCH: If you go out to eat on a Sunday around 11 in the morning or noon, you’re having brunch, a combination of “breakfast” and “lunch.”
CHUNNEL: This is a very specific portmanteau word. It refers to the “tunnel” that runs underneath the English “Channel” between England and France.
EMAIL: Here’s a really easy one! Email is simply “mail” that is sent “electronically” instead of through the postal system.
EMOTICON: Those little pictures you use when you’re G-chatting or texting come from a combination of the words “emotion” and “icon.”
FRAPPUCCINO: You might order one of these combinations of a “frappe” and a “cappuccino” at Starbucks–but probably not until the weather is warm again!
INFOMERCIAL: If you stay up really late at night watching TV (which I wouldn’t advise doing if you have school the next day), you might see an infomercial, which is an advertisement that lasts as long as a regular television show. The word infomercial is a portmanteau of the words “information” and “commercial.”
INTERCOM: You may have used one of these before in a school or office! It’s how coworkers are able to contact one another in separate parts of the same building without actually calling each other. It’s made from the words “internal” and “communication.”
INTERNET: Here’s one that’s so obvious I don’t know why I didn’t realize it before! The word internet is a portmanteau of “international” and “network.” Makes sense to me!
SMOG: No offense to our LA school, but if you’ve been to Los Angeles you may have seen the combination of “smoke” and “fog” that constitutes smog.
SPORK: Everyone’s favorite eating utensil! The spork is a spectacular combination of a “spoon” and a “fork.”
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are smiling because their names make up the portmanteau word Brangelina!