In the first part of this article series, we explored how emoticons, and later emoji, changed the way we communicate online, introducing small but significant nuances that could make or break a conversation.
Today, we will be exploring another facet of the internet that is helping shape the English language: portmanteaus.
Part 2: Portmanteaus of past and present
Portmanteau is not a word that was born of the internet, but rather is a staple term of the English language.
According to the American Merriam-Webster dictionary, a portmanteau is a word or morpheme whose form and meaning are derived from a blending of two or more distinct forms (such as smog from smoke and fog).
The word itself is another example of language transforming over time, since portmanteau itself is derived from French and Latin, but I digress.
Back to our original point, the advent of the internet helped popularize old portmanteaus while helping create entirely new ones.
Words like chillax (chill + relax) and cosplay (costume + play), for example, have existed since at least the 90s, but grew further in popularity around the early to mid 2000s thanks to the internet.
As for new terms that exclusive products of the internet, these include blogs (web + log), vlogs (video + log), email (electronic + mail), webinars (web + seminar) and even the entry of the previous part in this series: emoticons (emotion + icons)!
For many of these words, it can often be hard to trace their origin due to the breadth of written work that has been produced in the past few years, whether commercial, artistic or informal, and especially when you factor in the internet, where a word can first find life on an obscure online forum, only to spillover into the mainstream months, and sometimes weeks, later.
Today, portmanteaus of both past and present find themselves in our lexicon, thanks to their use online. Renowned dictionaries have even begun to acknowledge their existence and have officially accepted them as part of the English language, though they might often be listed as slang, which they often are.
Still, this hasn’t prevented these words from spilling over from online conversations and into real life. Unlike emojis, which are a visual-based language of sorts, internet portmanteaus carry over quite easily. You’ll often hear a term like webinar thrown around at business meetings, especially today given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, while a word like email has been standard workplace jargon for years.
In more casual circles, portmanteaus like bromance and frenemy might find themselves often thrown around.
Regardless of the setting, there’s no denying the power of these morphemes, especially when catapulted to the mainstream by the internet.
However, as any regular netizen (internet + citizen) will tell you, portmanteaus aren’t the only type of word that the internet helped popularize.
Up next in this article series: Slang and abbreviations! Stay tuned for Part 3!