Jazzercise, glitterati, Brangelina.
I love a good portmanteau. You know, that kind of word that’s a combo of two words and usually a twist on a longer one.
Cassingle. Showmance. Mathlete.
Sometimes it’s called a frankenword. It used to be called a “Sniglet” – coined in the 1980s by comedian Rich Hall for “a word that should be in the dictionary but isn’t.”
It was the whole basis of Tim Kazurinsky’s act on SNL’s Weekend Update in the 80s. He’d wear a bowtie and hold up cue cards with his made-up words: “When a rabbi has rabies, it’s called…” [reveal card] “…’oy veybies.'”
I looked it up – the word originally refers to “a large trunk or suitcase, typically made of stiff leather and opening into two equal parts.” (Hello excess weight fee at baggage check.)
There’s a whole list of portmanteaus here.
A good portmanteau is so satisfying. A bad one is tragic.
Case in point? The worst portmanteau ever: “Mansplaining.”
It bothers me every time I hear it.
Not because it’s not a thing, but because it’s such a dopey non-play on words.
Like Sharknado, but that one’s intentionally dopey. This one’s supposed to be clever.
I’ll portmansplain why it’s not:
To make a twist on the word “explaining” any good, you’d want the first part of the word to have a k or x sound — to sound like the “ex” or the “ek” sound in the first syllable.
For instance: not that ducks talk over you and tell you what you already know far better than they ever could, but if they did, “ducksplaining” would be a good portmanteau.
Like, if a duck lectured a cow on what it takes to produce the best milk, that would be ducksplaining.
Manterrupting – now, there’s a portmanteau.
And it’s real. I get manterrupted all the time.
I don’t mind getting fanterrupted, though. That’s flattering.
When someone kicks you under the table to stop you from saying something insulting or embarrassing, that’s a hinterruption. Another good word combo.
“Mansplaining” is just lazy.
But since it exists in our zeitgeist, or our bitegeist (that’s the zeitgeist of soundbites, I just made it up) it’s now an actual word – so an OK portmanteau on that (though not great, since the syllables don’t scan so well) would be “villainsplaining.”
Villainsplaining is when someone walks into a room, and the villain, who — without exception — faces out the window or looks at a painting but does not make eye contact, gives a little lecture leading to the point, “You’re fucked.”
Example: “You know why I like that painting? The main figure in it was a wealthy shipping magnate. He discovered that the artist had been disloyal, and sat for this portrait nevertheless, biding his time. As soon as the paint was dry, he had the artist poisoned. Because if there was one thing he couldn’t stand, it was disloyalty. I admire that, don’t you? How’s your drink, by the way? You don’t look well…”
I can also make a case for “Billionsplaining.”
That’s when someone in the show Billions — usually Paul Giamatti’s character, Chuck — delivers a smug little history lesson — usually over food — leading to the point “You’re fucked.” With a touch of, “I went to Yale.”
The mutton chop is the thing to order here.
It’s what they’re known for. This place has a special character, doesn’t it? You can almost feel all the history in this room, all the deals that’ve been made.
It’s where Senator Vandeveer brought me when she told me I was being appointed U.S. Attorney.
And it’s where I always thought I would take you when you’d earned the promotion to Head of Crim.
Mutton’s an interesting euphemism, isn’t it? Well, nobody ever says “sheep.” But who wants to eat something so adorable, right? So it’s a mutton chop. Definitely less objectionable.
To be fair, there’s also a good deal of Axesplaining. When Bobby Axe ‘splains, it usually involves a lesson on The Beatles.
If you watch Billions, you have been Billionsplained to. There’s no way around it. I like the show enough to binge it, but I could do without the manologues, especially Paul Giamatti’s — every one of them a version of his Pinot Noir elegy in Sideways — which I will call Pauliloquoys.
Now I’m going to portmanteach you how to make a portmannteau.
Say you have a word like “shrimp” and you want to combine it with other words.
You can start by looking up words that start with the main sound in it, “imp.” I like to use onelook.com. It’s God’s gift to stupid word combos. The ultimate portmantool.
In this case, I type in “imp*” and hit search. The key below the search box tells you how to do it.
So many choices! I can’t believe I never explored this before.
Shimpact, Shrimpossible, Shrimplement, Shrimprovisation.
I’m Shrimportant! I have Shrimpeccable taste! But I embrace my Shrimperfections!
I can even go a little looser and offer you a Shrimportunity. Or Shrimpspiration. Doesn’t have to be exact.
Say I wanted to improve (or Shrimprove) on “mansplaining,” which I do.
Starting with the base word of explain, I need something to replace the “ex” part, so I’d look up words ending in x or k or even a hard ch — by typing *x, *k, or *ch into the Onelook search.
That’s how I got “ducksplaining.”
Chucksplaining: a way sharper version of Billionsplaining, though limiting. Because other characters Billionsplain, if less frequently. And not with that annoying Paul Giamatti whisper-growl. Can you tell he bugs me?
Techsplaining: when Apple customer service tells you to close a browser window by “clicking the red dot at the top left corner.” Yes, I know.
Sexplaining: what it sounds like.
There you go. I hope this post has made a lasting Shrimpression on you.
Which bothers you more: the failed wordplay of “mansplaining,” or mansplaining itself?
What word combo needs to be a word? Make up your own portmanteau and leave it here. We’ll make it happen. Like Fetch.
PORTMANTELL ME IN THE COMMENTS. SORRY.