Volume 15, Issue 4, July 2014
Timothy J. Meehan, MD, MPH
The history of language is littered with neologisms. When different cultures met, some words were subsumed – “hamburgesa,” the Spanish word for hamburger is an example. Sometimes spelling is changed in order to denote a cultural difference. There are a number of words that end in ‘er’ in American English, but finish with a ‘re’ in the British usage. Finally, some words are simply combined, deriving their meaning from their individual components, but in their artistry and simplicity are able to exceed the sum of their parts. Words such as these, a particular form of neologism called a portmanteau, can denote an entire idea in a single instant and provide the wordsmith with a particular type of joy.