Thursday, January 22, 2009

Homegrown Dictionary

A bunch of years ago around the winter holidays, NPR ran a story about portmanteau words. It's where you take two or more words, combine some of their sounds and also their meanings. The only example I remember from the show was "anticiparcelpation"- the feeling of excitement while waiting for a package to arrive in the mail. Since then I have had occasion to create my own portmanteau words, not always on purpose. Sometimes it's just that in a nanosecond of speech production, two words cross through my brain almost simultaneously. The signal that gets sent to my speech mechanisms gets goofed up and a blend of the two words comes out. Examples of accidental portmanteau-ing:

Clapter- n. Audience noise caused by hands clapping and people laughing at the end of a very funny performance when the mood is high and people are joyous. (eg. My date couldn't hear my marriage proposal over the thundering clapter at the end of Nunsense and that's why I'm still single 20 years later.)

Thermomostat- n. Just a combination of the words thermometer and thermostat. I don't see any reason why the thing in your house that controls the heat isn't both at the same time...hence a thermomostat. (eg. Could someone check the thermomostat? I'm freezing.)

Exstrenuating- adj. Circumstances that are both extenuating and involve strenous effort. (eg. You may be excused from turning in your homework due to exstrenuating circumstances such as childbirth or a flat tire on the way to class.)

The rest of the list contains words that did not occur spontaneously. These are words that ought to be in our dictionaries. Feel free to memorize and use them as often as possible.

Nontrepreneur - n. This is the first word I ever invented (as an adult). "Entrepreneurial spirit" is highly valued in this country and gets a lot of lip service. But some of us just don't have that kind of spirit. We're more nontrepreneurial. I think that's an okay way to be, so I gave it a word.

Mommentary - n. A long, drawn out commentary given by your Mom. (eg. I got home 30 minutes late from my date to see Nunsence and was treated to an hour long Mommentary about responsibility and trust when all I wanted to do was go to bed.)

Dramastic - adj. state of agitation that is both drastic and dramatic. Kind of related to melodramatic but a bit more harsh, angular, and spazzy and less pathetic and woe-is-me-ish. I haven't come up with a good usage for this word yet. Feel free to try it out and share your sentences. Originally created as - dramastically.

Befortitude - n. Strength and stamina you must work up in yourself before tackling a tough project. (eg. I dug up some serious befortitude to get out of my sleeping bag when I was camping at -20F.) <--- this is fiction for me, although people do it. I'd never camp at -20F. That's insanity.

- adj. (slang) Being ambitious and bitchin' at the same time. (eg. That line you took down Tuckerman's Ravine was ambitchous, dude!)

Dreamality - n. the real, believeable and urgent world of your dreams. (e.g. In the morning you try to explain last night's dreamality to someone-- you were riding a hippo through the airport to catch the plane that was really a train with dolphin flippers and if you didn't make it you'd miss math class again which you didn't even remember where the room for that class was--and suddenly your dream seems completely illogical and yet it was so real, made so much sense and seemed urgently important last night. That's dreamality, baby.)

Most of the time I'm the wordsmith in our house. I like games like Boggle and Balderdash (my favorite because it involves both words and BS-ing people). But I've saved for last, the word that Chip created. This is how he presented it to me:

C: So the clothes that a nun wears are called a habit, right?
J: uh-huh.
C: And you told me yesterday that the thing around the face and head is called a wimple, right?
J: Yep.
C: So, what do they call the stuff they wear underneath all that?
J: Um...I don't really know.
C: Nunderwear!

Yup...Chip created a portmanteau groaner.


  1. That post made me really happy. Didn't I create some of those?

  2. Which ones? I know you were the inspiration for ambitchous with your Tuckermanly legs and all. And actually I have to give credit to Chip for befortitude...I forgot he created that one.