Blend Words Make Linguistic Sand'witches'

Rob Kyff on

Q: In the musical "Wicked," Glinda (the Good Witch) suggests that Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West to be) harbors a secret belief that she's destined to be popular. To encapsulate the concept of a hidden fate, Glinda blends "clandestine" with "destiny" to create the word: "clandestiny." Is there a word for the joining of two words into one? -- William Grimley, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

A: There is indeed an old-fashioned term for such mergers: "portmanteau words." A portmanteau is a large, leather suitcase that opens into two compartments.

In Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking Glass," the self-styled linguistic authority Humpty Dumpty invents this term when Alice asks him what "slithy" means: "Well, 'slithy' means 'lithe' and 'slimy' ... You see it's like a portmanteau -- there are two meanings packed up into one word." Talk about a mansplaining egghead!

Humpty's oddball term caught on, and linguists still use "portmanteau words." But, apparently weary of lugging around this big suitcase, most experts now tote a lightweight travel bag -- "blend words."

Blend words, of course, abound in English: "brunch" (breakfast, lunch), "moped" (motor, pedal) and "infomercial" (information, commercial).

But "clandestiny" and "slithy" represent a very clever type of blend word because they overlap some of their letters, i.e., "destin" is part of both "clandestine" and "destiny," and "li" is part of both "slimy" and "lithe."

It's easy to fuse "television" and "marathon" (telethon); "snow" and "drizzle" (snizzle), and "situation" and "comedy" (sitcom).

But it takes an extra dash of wit to overlap at least one letter appearing in both words: the "o" in "hotel" and "motor" (motel); the "san" of "croissant" and "sandwich" (croissandwich); the "en" of "friend" and "enemy" (frenemy); and the "tin" (pronounced "teen") of "quarantine" and "martini" (quarantini).

Do you know which words were blended to create these words?


1) blog 2) Bollywood 3) pixel 4) malware 5) netiquette 6) jeggings 7) Botox 8) bit 9) chillax 10) chortle

Bonus: These New York City neighborhoods: 11. Tribeca 12. SoHo 13. Dumbo


1) web log 2) Bombay Hollywood 3) picture element 4) malicious software 5) internet etiquette 6) jeans leggings 7) botulinum toxin 8) binary digit 9) chill relax 10) chuckle snort 11) Triangle Below Canal (Street) 12) South of Houston (Street) 13. Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass

Score below 8? Please make your Brexit through the Chunnel!


Rob Kyff, a teacher and writer in West Hartford, Connecticut, invites your language sightings. His new book, "Mark My Words," is available for $9.99 on Send your reports of misuse and abuse, as well as examples of good writing, via email to or by regular mail to Rob Kyff, Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

Copyright 2021 Creators Syndicate Inc.



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