Portmanteua is not a word that's thrown around a lot these days, but its application is everywhere. Portmanteau is, by definition, the combination of sounds and meanings from two or more words to create a new one. One need only look so far as Hollywood gossip columns to see it in action: Brad [Pitt] plus Angelina [Jolie] yields Brangelina, etc. The term portmanteau was coined in 1871 in Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There." The word originally referred to a now-obsolete two-compartment suitcase of French origin, and Humpty Dumpty used that brand of luggage as an analogy to explain the Jabberwocky's mode of speaking which often included words with "two meanings packed up into one." IDW Publishing's new book "Mixtionary" is a repository of many such neologisms, and author Scott Lobdell took a moment out of his busy schedule to talk with CBR News about how it came about.
"Like that ancient Chinese proverb, about how five blind men touch an elephant and come up with a different yet definitive description," Lobdell began, "the origin of 'Mixtionary' differs depending on who you're talking to!" The book was originally the brainchild of Scott's friend John Nee, who then brought co-writers Lobdell and Mia Christou into the fold. Nee, a Media Business Development executive in New York City (described by Lobdell as a "creatively brilliant man trapped in the world of business"), would regale Lobdell during their frequent IM conversations with many and varied examples of humorous portmanteaux. Nee had also been in correspondence with
Christou, a UK based model, writer, actor and former financial news reporter, who was equally tickled by Nee's verbal acrobatics. Both Lobdell and Christou encouraged their friend to release a book of such words. "Which is when [John Nee] confessed to me that, alas, for all their wit and winsome, there were only about eighteen mixed words in all," Lobdell told CBR News. "Certainly not enough for a book."
This was when the three writers decided to throw themselves "head first into the creation of 'Mixtionary' words." Words like "Stopportunity" (something that happens to keep you from achieving your destiny), "Matrimoney" (the money it costs to get married, stay married, and eventually divorce) and "Travelsty" (a trip or vacation that ends in travesty) to name a few.
Lobdell had only glowing things to say about his vaunted collaborators. He says that it was in the synthesis of his own adult ADD, the "biting English humor" and organizing influence of Christou, and the intense creativity of Nee that "Mixtionary" was forged. "How can you not love working with people like that?" The name of the tome was one of Lobdell's contributions, conjured during those fleeting moments between other writing projects.
Veteran comics artist Shawn McManus lent his artistic talents to "Mixtionary," producing a humorous illustration for each of the book's 93 new words, with gag contributions by collaborators Eric DeSantis and Barry Dutter. "One of the great regrets of my career at Marvel was that I never got to work with Mr. McManus," Lobdell began. "He is without a doubt one of the most talented illustrators in the business and, remarkably, unsung."
When asked how "Mixtionary" compares to the linguistic contributions of "1984" scribe George Orwell (whose above-mentioned novel introduced the ever-shrinking Newspeak dictionary with a systematic, fascistic elimination of words towards the goal of phasing out the revolutionary ideas that they described), Lobdell had this to say: "While Mr. Orwell did indeed warn us of the elimination of words, we're going in the opposite direction!" He and his collaborators were careful to ensure that the component words of each of the neologisms in "Mixtionary" retained their original meanings. "It would be fun to find our words taking their place in Webster's, that granddaddy of all dictionaries," Lodbell admitted. "We're looking to expand the ability to communicate in these days where misunderstanding so often seems the order of the day."
"Mixtionary" is published by IDW Publishing and is coming to a bookstore near you on October 11th.