10 words you probably didn’t know used to be two words

Opened Books

Everyone knows words that, a long long time ago (last week, maybe), used to be two words. Then some genius got too lazy to say both words and decided to mash them together, and then, suddenly, where there were two words, there’s now only one. Well, we call them portmanteaus.

We all know the modern ones. Staycation is a rather popular one, combining, um, stay and vacation. (Some of them are rather obvious.) Others, of course, are a little more obscure. In fact, they’re so common most people don’t even remember a time when they were two words. (And if you do, well, congrats!)

Well, let’s begin.

1. Taxicab (taximeter and cabriolet)

A taximeter calculated the cost of a fare based on distance and waiting time. A cabriolet is a horse drawn carriage. I guess at some point in history they added the two, and an internal combustion engine, and decided that a taximeter cabriolet was exactly what they needed to call it. Of course, now, people just call it a taxi or a cab, but that’s besides the point.

2. Moped (motor and pedal)

A moped used to have both pedals and a motor, but now, they usually don’t. However, they do have tiny engines and usually move about as fast as a bike.

3. Electrocute (electric and execute)

Electrocution first came into usage with the invention of the electric chair. People who were executed by that method were, of course, electrocuted. Its etymology aside, the term has come to be used basically whenever someone receives an electric shock. However, if you do want to be a stickler for grammar, electrocute should only be used when death is involved.

4. Ginormous (gigantic and enormous)

I didn’t know ginormous was actually in the dictionary; however, it is. Honestly, it sounds like the invention of some five-year old, but then, it seems to be a pretty good catch-all phrase for anything bigger than, well, big stuff. And here I am describing like a five-year old.

5. Irregardless (irrespective and regardless)

To be technical, this word is absolutely useless, because it has the exact same meaning as regardless. Next word.

6. Squiggle (squirm and wiggle)

How two bodily actions joined together became a marking on a piece of paper, I don’t know. But I guess if you squirm and wiggle while writing, that’s literally all you’re going to get on the piece of paper.

7. Podcast (iPod and broadcast)

Maybe I didn’t know this one just because I’m not old enough, but apparently podcast (the word) was invented in 2004 by a BBC journalist, combining Apple’s iPod and broadcast. The name stuck, and it’s been used ever since (for all of 12 years).

8. Smog (smoke and fog)

This word was invented early in the 20th century to describe, as you probably guessed, smoke that was so thick it was like a fog.

9. Vitamin (vital and mineral)

Who knew all of these weird sounding words actually make more sense when you find their roots? Vitamin sounds like a magic word, but once you turn it to vital mineral, well, that’s just a boring description. Maybe that’s why they shortened it.

10. Pixel (picture and element)

Today I learnt that computer terminology, like medical terminology, makes a lot more sense when you don’t contract everything. Picture elements, well, pixels, display it perfectly. (And yes, the pun was intended.)

That ends the list of the stuff most people have forgotten were portmanteaus. But of course, there are new portmanteaus being created all the time, from chillax to netizen to phablet. But do you want to know my favourite? Well, I’ve added another entry just for it.

11. Voluntold (volunteer and told)

Have you ever been in a situation where somebody told you that you were going to volunteer for something? Like, when someone in authority comes and asks you for help, and when you decline, they tell you to do it anyway? Well, that’s being voluntold.

And that, my friends, is my listicle (list and article) about portmanteaus.

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