Anatomical portmanteaus

Brian Crane’s Pickles strip from June 15:

(Hat tip to Jon Lighter on ADS-L.)

Cankles for women, a fralp for men. The anatomical portmanteaus of aging.

3 Responses to “Anatomical portmanteaus”

  1. joe waggle Says:

    is “portmanteaus” the proper word here, since we’re speaking in an english context, or would the correct plural still be “portmanteaux” from the original french? what’s the rule on anglicizing words like that?

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      In general, if a word has become English, it takes English inflection. (In practice, that principle applies only to noun plurals; no one carries over case inflection from German, say, or inflectional forms of verbs.) There are exceptions, mostly involving learnèd borrowings (including some of some vintage). Otherwise, preserving the inflection is a sign that the word hasn’t been nativized, that you’re quoting material from another language.

      But portmanteau is a bit more complicated than that. If you spell the plural PORTMANTEAUX, how do you pronounce that plural? If you pronounce it like portmanteaus (with a final /z/), then the spelling seems silly, at odds with the pronunciation, serving only to signal foreignness visually. If you pronounce it like French (with no final fricative, with no [t] at the end of the first syllable, with a nasalized vowel in the second syllable, maybe even with a French monophthongal [o] at the end, but certainly with accent on the final syllable, though many British speakers prefer accent on the second syllable), then you’re signalling that for you it’s an unassimilated loanword, despite its long history in English. I suppose there are some people who pronounce PORTMANTEAUX as entirely English except for the lack of a final fricative (which means that in pronunciation it’s a zero plural for them, with PORTMANTEAUX and PORTMANTEAU homophonous); that strikes me as an odd compromise between Frenchness and Englishness.

      Maybe some people like the plural spelled PORTMANTEAUX just because it shows off their knowledge of French.

      I’m not saying that the spelling PORTMANTEAUX is *wrong*, only recommending PORTMANTEAUS instead.

  2. portmanteaux? « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] last month Joe Waggle commented on my “Anatomical portmanteaus” posting, asking: is “portmanteaus” the proper word […]

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