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Coffee House Culture House Daily

Spectator competition winners: unnatural combinations

12 November 2017

9:45 AM

12 November 2017

9:45 AM

The latest competition invited you to submit cringeworthy portmanteau words.

The word portmanteau was first used in this sense by Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking Glass when Humpty Dumpty is explaining ‘Jabberwocky’ to Alice: ‘Well, “slithy” means “lithe and slimy”… You see it’s like a portmanteau — there are two meanings packed up into one word.’

There’s nothing wrong with new words, of course. As Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter of 1820 to John Adams: ‘I am a friend to neology. It is the only way to give to a language copiousness and euphony.’ The best, most enduring portmanteaus are witty, pithy and fill a gap (‘brunch’, ‘metrosexual’, ‘workaholic’). But the worst are forced, silly and impenetrable — masstige? Shanter? Nope, me neither — and, thanks to social media, they seem to be coming at us at an ever-increasing rate (‘We have, I think it’s fair to say,’ wrote Andy Bodle somewhat optimistically in the Guardian in February of last year, ‘reached peakmanteau.’)

There was an element of masochism on my part in this challenge — and, given the lowish turnout and murmurings of discontent (G.M. Davis appended a single, heartfelt ‘meh’ to his entry), it seems that perhaps you shared my misgivings.

Hats off, then, to the troupers below whose sterling efforts earn them £6 for each coinage printed.

Basil Ransome-Davies
Blottolenghi: state of looking for rare ingredients while drunk.
Demitasshole: pretentious espresso drinker.
Arthuritis: addiction to the poetry of Rimbaud
Brexitement: pathological tremors created by fear and uncertainty.
Narcoticissism: deluded self-admiration under the influence of drugs.
Womblebrag: faux-modest smugness of environmentalists in SW19.

A.H. Harker
Splatnav: an accident caused by mindlessly following the instruction of a GPS device.
Bogost: compost largely formed from uneaten remains of buy-one-get-one-free offers that have spent too long in the salad drawer.

Frank Upton
Lavatar: a stylised male or female figure on the outer door of a rest-room.
Trollification: the glee that results from successfully shouting down an unpopular truth.

Frank Osen
Testiculation: a remark punctuated by grabbing one’s crotch.
FedExcrement: the incremental stages by which a package delivery goes completely wrong.

Bill Greenwell
Reduvenation: replacing eiderdown of one season with one of another; adjusting tog factor.
Homentum: radical interior design and living focus group, intent on hymning the domestic.

J.R. Johnson
Corbyfuge: softly spoken reasonable man stratagem.
Sanctimoney: human rights lawyers’ fees.

Brian Murdoch
Gratisfaction: the feeling of wellbeing as you contemplate the second, free, item of your BOGOF purchase at the local supermarket.

Robert Schechter
Patellaphantiasis: a medical symptom characterized by swollen knees.
Tardishwasher: a dishwasher that holds much more than it looks like it will from the outside.

Adrian Fry
Blurbivore: one who consumes only the covers of books.

Mike Morrison
Refab: a refurbished wartime bungalow. These system-built structures were conceived as temporary dwellings but have far outlasted their expected lifespan. Currently rebranded, and appropriately priced, as ‘des res bijouettes’.

Carolyn Beckingham
Wellnesstician: someone who does for health something similar to what a beautician does for beauty (e. g., a physiotherapist).

Tracy Davidson
Shamburger: a burger made with some godforsaken meat substitute.

Your next challenge is to submit a topical double dactyl. A double dactyl is a poem of two quatrains, of which the last line of the first rhymes with the last line of the second. All the lines except the rhyming ones, which are truncated, are composed of two dactylic feet. The first line of the first stanza is a double dactylic nonsense line (e.g., higgledy-piggledy/jiggery-pokery). The second must be a double dactylic name. At least one line of the second stanza (ideally the antepenultimate one) must be one double dactylic line that is one word long, e.g., ‘va-le-dic-tor-i-an’. Please email entries to by midday on 22 November.

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