“Portma-what?!”, I hear you say. English is such a rich and evolving language that you never know when you’ll discover something new.
Yesterday I was going through the Canadian newspaper, the Globe and Mail, when I saw a headline in the family and relationships section:
“My girlfriend won’t stand up to her frenemy”
A reader had written to the newspaper with a problem. Can you guess what happened, and can you guess what ‘frenemy’ means?
First, if you don’t know what ‘to stand up to someone’ means, we use this phrasal verb when we want to defend ourselves or an idea which we believe in. Often we stand up to someone when we feel that we are being treated unfairly or badly, when someone is not being respectful to us or our ideas.
Standing up for yourself involves the idea that you believe in yourself.
After being insulted by her classmates, Katka decided to stand up for herself.
Back to ‘frenemy‘. This is an example of a portmanteau word, a mixture of two separate words coming together to create a new word with a unique meaning. In this case ‘friend’ blends with ‘enemy’ to create ‘frenemy.’ When the Globe and Mail reader writes about his girlfriend and says she ‘won’t stand up to her frenemy’, we instantly get the picture that she has a friend who isn’t good or respectful to her.
Frenemies are people who really aren’t our friends, just as you can see in this video (or click here if you can’t see it on your browser):
How To Spot Frenemies on Howcast
This is why it can be fascinating to read the latest magazines and newspapers, as you’re sure to find some new vocabulary and interesting uses of English. Of course the question this brings for publishers of dictionaries and coursebooks is whether or not these words will last or whether they will simply fade out of fashion.
What other portmanteau words do you know?
I’m sure you’ve heard of ‘brunch’, a combination of ‘breakfast’ and ‘lunch’. There’s also ‘fanzine’ (fan + magazine), ‘blog’ (web + log), and ’emoticon’ (emotion + icon).
Another portmanteau word which you see in the media (but I’ve not yet heard from the lips of a friend) is ‘bromance.’ which describes a close platonic relationship between two men. There’s even a TV series called ‘Bromance’ on MTV!
Now that you know two separate words can blend together to form a portmanteau word, try to find out and google what these mean, and which two words they originally came from (and if you’re not sure of the answer, just ask me below):
Czenglish, webzine, netiquette, docutainment, rockumentary, mockumentary
malware, guesstimate, infomercial, televangelist, sexpert, sexting, smog
mompreneur, wi-fi, sitcom, Obamacare
And what about these..?
Finally, for trivia buffs:
Which words come together to make ‘goodbye’?