I have chosen to edit this post because it apparently has offended some of the more sensitive among us. While, personally, I feel this should prompt discourse rather than down votes, I do not wish to offend people who unwittingly stumble upon this question.

I was contemplating a word that is a contraction of two words. Click here if you wish to know the word in question - but be warned it is mildly offensive to some.. (Try as I might, I cannot think of a non-vulgar example that blurs the line so effectively. See further for details.)

This word does not use an apostrophe to denote its contraction. Rather it has borrowed the morphology of half of each word to make a new whole. The new whole, however, has a bit of synergy that the words themselves convey but perhaps not to the same degree. (Thanks to Bradd Szonye for helping me phrase that properly.)

Is this strictly a portmanteau as is suggested in the linked definition above?

My question is: Would a word like this be considered a portmanteau or a contraction? Or perhaps both?

Does the synergy of meaning make it a portmanteau, or does the ability of both words standing alone to convey similar meaning make it a mere contraction?

  • That is your favorite neologism? Mar 23, 2014 at 21:41
  • @medica #1, I said one of. #2, De gustibus non est disputandum.
    – David M
    Mar 23, 2014 at 21:42
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    Apostrophes are not necessary for contraction; apostrophes are silent. Contractions are done to save syllables in speech; how they get represented in English spelling, which neither indicates syllables nor represents speech, is something of a creative endeavor. Contractions are often spelled with apostrophes, but that doesn't hafta be the case. Mar 23, 2014 at 22:21
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    They were coined to describe different phenomena; they're not part of a consistent category system. Mar 23, 2014 at 22:56
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    Why this question offends anyone so much that they had decided to downvote it, beats me. Mar 23, 2014 at 23:15

1 Answer 1


The Wikipedia article linked in your question has a discussion of this point:

This definition overlaps with the grammatical term contraction, but a distinction can be made between a portmanteau and a contraction by noting that contractions are formed from words that would otherwise appear together in sequence, such as do and not, whereas a portmanteau word is formed by combining two or more existing words that all relate to a singular concept which the portmanteau describes.

Thus, a portmanteau is a kind of contraction, but it has features that other contractions do not: It combines grammatically unrelated words to create a new semantic concept, whereas a typical contraction is simply a convenience of pronunciation.

Note that this is a common distinction but not a defining one. The defining trait of a portmanteau is simply that it combines distinct morphemes into a new morpheme with blended phonetic and semantic elements. The whole is more than the sum of its parts, unlike a contraction like didn’t that simply means did not. Portmanteaus also allow you to combine grammatically diverse words, but some (like fucktard) don't need to.

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    Heh I've done that too. Sometimes you just need to have it pointed out or restated in slightly different words. Like my singing accent question. Mar 23, 2014 at 22:26
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    It's both. You have a new morpheme created from a blend of two others, phonetically and semantically. Mar 23, 2014 at 22:32
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    As smog is both smoke and fog, a fucktard is both outrageous (fucking) and stupid (retarded), but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The distinction that Wikipedia notes is sufficient but not necessary to spot a portmanteau. The key is that there's a synergistic blend of sound and meaning. Mar 23, 2014 at 22:36
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    I have edited my answer to include the "sufficient but not necessary" commentary. Trying to think of another portmanteau to illustrate the point, because I too would prefer to avoid repeating the example. Mar 23, 2014 at 22:51
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    @braddszonye I may redraft this question with a more benign example word. Because, I think people's opinions are being colored by their "outrage" at my word choice.
    – David M
    Mar 23, 2014 at 22:54

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