Wordvention is fun. Wordvention, of course, means inventing words. You probably could guess what it meant even though it isn't a real word, because it is two real words smushed together. The technical term for this is a "Portmanteau," a French word from the words "port," meaning "dessert wine," and "manteau," meaning "is best consumed in vast quantities before listening to people who use made-up words."
Portmanteaus are very useful, allowing you to express two concepts at once with a single word. However, there is an artistry to good portmanteau-making. For example, one of the poorly-crafted portmanteaus you may see around is "crangry." Because we don't have enough of the first part of the word we have no idea what it means. Is a crangry person crazy and angry? Cranky and angry? Angry at cranberries? (It's possible; they can really bog you down.)
To me, a portmanteau with artistry is one whose definition is immediately apparent. Like the felicitous statement I like to make to a friend who gets their college diploma: "Congraduations!" Short, simple, self-explanatory. Or at least Seth-explanatory, since people will often glance at my message and say "You misspelled congraTulations," and I have to point out the portmanteau.
But I look at this as a "Probportunity" -- my favorite portmanteau, and not just because I came up with it -- insofar as the problem offers me an opportunity to talk about portmanteaus. To me, there's just something elegant about them, and they serve an important purpose for English, since we don't seem to commonly smash any few words together like German does. I think German has a single word for "Man who enjoys smashing words together and also talks too much," maybe something like "DasVerbenSmashenLong TalkenMachen," or "Hassen Pfeffer."
I probably talked too much last weekend at the gaming convention I attended. The Penny Arcade convention was filled with video games, board games and people geeking out over both. While I was there, I was on a panel where I ended up talking more than the other three members combined. In my defense, they had all done a panel together last year and I hadn't, so I felt like I had a year of talking to make up for.
However, a portion of my presentation was supposed to be aided by some musical accompaniment, and as is often the case with presentations, our technology failed to work. So, there could have been a problem. But I saw a probportunity. We asked an audience member who we knew to be good at making musical sounds if he could provide the backing for that particular portion of my presentation discussing a famous German philosopher. And boosted by the audience's inherent enjoyment of seeing a fellow audience member provide the live music, I think my presentation actually went fairly well -- aside from the small fact that my famous German philosopher was technically Austrian and not German.
But I've never been good at keeping track of countries. I once sang an entire song extolling the virtues of the beautiful island of Peru. Yes, technically Peru is an inland, mountainous country, but geography has never been my strong suit. Some might look at this woeful lack of knowledge as a problem. But at least it gives me something to write about.
And I consider that an excellent probportunity.
Seth Brown is a humor writer, the author of "It Happened In Rhode Island," and thinks clever portmanteaus are adorkable. His work appears weekly in the Transcript and weakly on RisingPun.com.