Languages are alive. Like us, they evolve and adjust to survive and remain effective. New words and structures are added to more concisely and accurately describe our rapidly changing world. Other words and structures become obsolete and forgotten. Sometimes two words combine to form a new word: This combination is called a portmanteau. The word blog is a portmanteau, as it combines an old word, log—a written record—and a new word, web—the World Wide Web. Here are six more contemporary portmanteaus, which have been popularized in the last ten years. They reflect our modern world and show how quickly languages can change.
1. Screen + teenager = Screenager – noun
Definition: A young person in their teens or twenties who is very good at and spends a lot of time using digital technology
Example: My son wants me to buy him the new LG phone. He spends all day on his phone and computer. He is such a screenager!
Recently, in China, a twenty-one year old woman lost her vision in one eye after playing an online game all day. She is an extreme example of a screenager. Do you know anyone like this, who spends more time in front of a screen than they do interacting with the real world? A young person who does this can be called a screenager. Surely, as mobile devices and digital technology become even more common, so will screenagers and the use of this word.
2. Humble + Brag = Humblebrag – verb, noun
Definition: To make a statement that at first seems humble but actually is an attempt to get praise and attention
Example: She says, “I hate being mistaken for a super model.” Actually, she loves it. She is just humblebragging.
Most people want positive attention. But we have learned that asking for it directly does not always get us the desired result, so sometimes we try to disguise our bragging by pretending to be humble. Imagine someone says, “I am worried I won’t be able to fit all the numbers on the check, when I pay for my new mansion in Beverly Hills! Can somebody with really small handwriting help me?” Is this person genuinely worried about writing all those small numbers on the check? Do they really need your help to write the numbers? Of course not. This person just wants you to recognize they are so rich they can pay for a mansion with a check. This is a humblebrag. Read through a Facebook or Twitter feed, and you are sure to find at least a few humblebrags. (People humblebragging really bugs me, but it is impossible to avoid with my thousands of Twitter fans always trying to impress me!)
3. Friend + Enemy = Frenemy - noun
Definition: A person who pretends to be your friend but is actually your enemy
Example: She tells me she loves hanging out with me. But as soon as I am gone, she tells everyone she hates me. What a frenemy!
Do you have a so-called friend who greets you with a smile, but you suspect the friend is smiling because they were just gossiping about you? Then, you might have a frenemy. Or do you have a friend on Facebook that you secretly hate, but you keep them as a friend anyway? Then, you might be the frenemy.
4. Twitter + -rati = Twitterati - noun
Definition: Frequent, passionate users of the social media platform Twitter
Example: She used to visit me every afternoon. But after she joined the Twitterati, she doesn’t even have time to say “Hi”.
-Rati is a suffix meaning the elite part of a group of people. The Literati are people who are not just literate and educated, but the most literate and educated people. The Technorati are the most tech-savvy people. And so it only makes sense that there is now a Twitterati.
5. Photograph + Bomb = Photobomb - verb
Definition: To ruin a photo by unexpectedly appearing in the view of the camera
Example: They were just about to take a photo. Then, a man in a banana suit jumped in and photobombed the picture.
During war, bombs can stealthily drop from the sky destroying buildings and lives. In the same way, while taking a photo, someone can suddenly drop into your photo destroying the image you are trying to capture. While not as devastating as a real bomb, photobombs can be frustrating or humorous, depending on your perspective.
Can you think of any other contemporary portmanteaus? They are out there. Who knows, you might even coin the next one. Share your idea below for a new portmanteau, and become a part of the italkirati!