Carrol's portmanteaus
文章来源: 文章作者: 发布时间:2009-04-11 03:07 字体: [ ]  进入论坛

Reader question:

Please explain "portmanteau words", and give examples.

My comments:

A portmanteau word is one created from combining two existing words. "Portmanteau" itself is such a word. Portmanteau is French, for a dual-purpose suitcase able to hold coats and other items. It's a combination of "porte" (carry) and "manteau" (coat).

The Jabberwocky poem by Louis Carroll in Through the Looking-Glass, a sequel to Alice in Wonderland, is full of portmanteaus.

The first stanzas1 (paragraphs) of that famous nonsensical and yet profoundly brilliant poem reads:

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

The jaws2 that bite, the claws that catch!

Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun3

The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:

Long time the manxome foe4 he sought-

So rested he by the Tumtum tree,

And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,

The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,

Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,

And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! and through and through

The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!

He left it dead, and with its head

He went galumphing back.

"And hast thou slain5 the Jabberwock?

Come to my arms, my beamish boy!

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"

He chortled in his joy.

This poem is a perfect example to demonstrate the limitlessness of human consciousness if we are not shackled6 by the limitations of the very language we use every day. For me, a Chinese, it is a poem I totally enjoy without having to get to the bottom of its meanings.

Then again, getting to the bottom of its exact meaning is perhaps not Carroll's purpose. In fact Lewis Carroll is said to have claimed that he did not know exactly what some of those coinages were from.

Anyways, some of the words in this poem could be guessed out outright7, others being explained in the book or later by the author. "Slithy", for example, is a blend of "slimy" and "lithe8", "mimsy" meaning "miserable9" and "flimsy".

And the word "chortle", a combination of "chuckle10" and "snort", even made its way into proper English today. It means a throaty laugh.

Now, a few recent sightings of portmanteau words in the news:

1. Spanglish – Spanish English:

Chang Lee, who runs a clothes shop just north of the border, explains in fluent Spanglish that Mexicans are spending "too mucho time" waiting to cross, which leaves too little time for shopping - Good neighbours make fences, The Economist11, October 2, 2008.

2. smog – smoke and fog:

Olympians prepare for battle with Beijing's smog – A headline, International Herald12 Tribune, January 24, 2008).

3. Oxbridge – Oxford13 and Cambridge:

Do you have an Oxbridge mind? – Another headline, The Independent, October 16, 2008.

4. docudrama – documentary, drama:

Battle in Seattle is a docudrama that chokes to death on its good intentions - Movie review: Battle in Seattle - 2 out of 5 stars, Orlando Sentinel, October 15, 2008.


1 stanzas 1e39fe34fae422643886648813bd6ab1     
节,段( stanza的名词复数 )
  • The poem has six stanzas. 这首诗有六小节。
  • Stanzas are different from each other in one poem. 诗中节与节差异颇大。
2 jaws cq9zZq     
  • The antelope could not escape the crocodile's gaping jaws. 那只羚羊无法从鱷鱼张开的大口中逃脱。
  • The scored jaws of a vise help it bite the work. 台钳上有刻痕的虎钳牙帮助它紧咬住工件。
3 shun 6EIzc     
  • Materialists face truth,whereas idealists shun it.唯物主义者面向真理,唯心主义者则逃避真理。
  • This extremist organization has shunned conventional politics.这个极端主义组织有意避开了传统政治。
4 foe ygczK     
  • He knew that Karl could be an implacable foe.他明白卡尔可能会成为他的死敌。
  • A friend is a friend;a foe is a foe;one must be clearly distinguished from the other.敌是敌,友是友,必须分清界限。
5 slain slain     
杀死,宰杀,杀戮( slay的过去分词 ); (slay的过去分词)
  • The soldiers slain in the battle were burried that night. 在那天夜晚埋葬了在战斗中牺牲了的战士。
  • His boy was dead, slain by the hand of the false Amulius. 他的儿子被奸诈的阿缪利乌斯杀死了。
6 shackled 915a38eca61d93140d07ef091110dab6     
给(某人)带上手铐或脚镣( shackle的过去式和过去分词 )
  • The hostage had been shackled to a radiator. 当时人质被铐在暖气片上。
  • He was shackled and in darkness of torment. 他被困在黑暗中备受煎熬。
7 outright Qj7yY     
  • If you have a complaint you should tell me outright.如果你有不满意的事,你应该直率地对我说。
  • You should persuade her to marry you outright.你应该彻底劝服她嫁给你。
8 lithe m0Ix9     
  • His lithe athlete's body had been his pride through most of the fifty - six years.他那轻巧自如的运动员体格,五十六年来几乎一直使他感到自豪。
  • His walk was lithe and graceful.他走路轻盈而优雅。
9 miserable g18yk     
  • It was miserable of you to make fun of him.你取笑他,这是可耻的。
  • Her past life was miserable.她过去的生活很苦。
10 chuckle Tr1zZ     
  • He shook his head with a soft chuckle.他轻轻地笑着摇了摇头。
  • I couldn't suppress a soft chuckle at the thought of it.想到这个,我忍不住轻轻地笑起来。
11 economist AuhzVs     
  • He cast a professional economist's eyes on the problem.他以经济学行家的眼光审视这个问题。
  • He's an economist who thinks he knows all the answers.他是个经济学家,自以为什么都懂。
12 herald qdCzd     
  • In England, the cuckoo is the herald of spring.在英国杜鹃鸟是报春的使者。
  • Dawn is the herald of day.曙光是白昼的先驱。
13 Oxford Wmmz0a     
  • At present he has become a Professor of Chemistry at Oxford.他现在已是牛津大学的化学教授了。
  • This is where the road to Oxford joins the road to London.这是去牛津的路与去伦敦的路的汇合处。
上一篇:Lap dog 下一篇:Stopgap, makeshift 权宜之计