portmanteau ( pôrtˈmantō )
— n , pl -teaus , -teaux
1 (formerly) a large travelling case made of stiff leather, esp one hinged at the back so as to
open out into two compartments
2 (linguistics) a word or morpheme whose form and meaning are derived from a blending of two or more distinct forms (as smog from smoke and fog)
3 (modifier) embodying several uses or qualities: the heroine is a portmanteau figure of all the virtues
Humpty Dumpty’s Theory
In his book, Through the Looking Glass (1871), Lewis Carroll coined a new meaning for the word portmanteau. In response to the Jabberwocky poem, Humpty Dumpty explains to a confused Alice how two words can be packed together, like compartments in a portmanteau suitcase:
Well, “slithy” means “lithe and slimy”. “Lithe” is the same as “active”. You see it’s like a portmanteau — there are two meanings packed up into one word.
By analogy Carol uses portmanteau to describe the reasoning behind the many fanciful words used in his book. In his introduction to The Hunting of the Snark, Carroll further explains the concept underlying a portmanteau word:
Humpty Dumpty's theory, of two meanings packed into one word like a portmanteau, seems to me the right explanation for all. For instance, take the two words "fuming" and "furious". Make up your mind that you will say both words, but leave it unsettled which you will say first ... if you have the rarest of gifts, a perfectly balanced mind, you will say "frumious".
At PORTmanteau it seems fitting to carry this philosophy into design: To play with juxtaposition, to blend style genres, to challenge our distaste for dissonance in order to find something new, fun and possibly more elegant than before. As Carroll suggests, it’s not about a formula so much as a playfulness of mind and an intuition for when the perfect balance is achieved.