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Malamanteau - Defining A New Word

Posted on Wed, 26 May 2010 at 1:49



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Malamanteau - Defining A New Word

Linguists and geeks alike are confounded by the word-of-the-day malamanteau. If you are a fan of XKCD the web comic, you saw what one author believes malamanteau means. However, if you've heard malamanteau as the word of the day at the coffee shop or water cooler, you may be wondering what the heck it means. No, it doesn't have to do with love, mathematics, online payday loans or sarcasm. Malamanteau is really relatively simple.

Defining malamanteau as the author did

This morning’s XKCD included a fake Wikipedia page with the word “Malamanteau." When this comic was posted, there was no such page, though there is now. The XKCD “official” definition for malamanteau is "a neologism for a portmanteau created by incorrectly combining a malapropism with a neologism." XKCD may be a free comic that wields all kind of social power, but this one left even financial industry creative types and English professors both saying "Huh?"

Breaking down the constituent parts of malamanteau

The definition of malamanteau makes more sense when you break down the basic parts of the definition. Neologism is a word meaning “a new word”. Words blended together to create one word are known as a portmanteau. Any word that blends two words counts as a portmanteau – like the contraction of “can” and “not." If you substitute one word for one more when they sound the exact same, but do not mean the same thing, you are using a malapropism. Malapropism just means “inappropriate." For example, allegory instead of alligator.

Malamanteau – the meaning as it should be defined

What does malamanteau really mean? Malamanteau is a new word for a blended word created by wrongly mixing an inappropriate, similar-sounding word with a new word. In other words, you have a malamanteau if you combine "illterate" (in place of "obliterate") with "masil" or some other non-existent word to create "masillerterate" to describe what the stock market crash did to the economy.

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