Sunday, April 19, 2009

Screaking it out! from Sandy

Dear Word Spy,

One of my favourite new words is screak. It means a high pitched screaming shriek. I wonder if it was made by joining parts of scream and shriek? Is this how new words are born? I tried to think others that might have been made this way but couldn't come up with any.

From Sandy

Dear Sandy,

Screak! that's fantastic. And a new one to your friend the Word Spy.

This sort of word that is born by joining two words together is sometimes called a portmanteau word. (That's pronounced port-man-toe in case you were wondering - it's French.) A portmanteau was an old-fashioned suitcase that you could fit lots of things into. So when a portmanteau word is born, it's because someone has squeezed more than one word into a space.

There's tons of portmanteau words out there, once you start looking for them. There's words like splatter - (splash and scatter) or brunch (breakfast and lunch) - liger (lion and tiger) or even blog itself! (web and log.) I bet you can think of some more.

Or better still, as the Word Spy always says, make some up yourself! How about a bromb? (yep, a mixture of a brush and a comb). Or what sort of animal do you think a girabbit might be? (Hint:it's got a very long spotty neck, big ears and hops around the garden.)

I'd love to hear of any portmanteau words you make up!

From the wordsessed Word Spy

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