Grammar Simplified

Wordplay Unleashed: From Portmanteaus to Gender-Neutral Language

The Art of Wordplay: Portmanteaus and VerbingLanguage is a powerful tool that continues to evolve, adapting and changing to suit the needs of its users. One fascinating aspect of this evolution is the creation of portmanteaus and the phenomenon of verbing.

In this article, we will explore these linguistic constructs, uncover their origins, and delve into some notable examples. By the end of this journey, you will have a greater appreciation for the intricacies of language and its ability to shape our communication.


Portmanteaus in the Modern World

Portmanteaus, a term coined by Lewis Carroll in “Through the Looking Glass,” are new words created by blending two words or parts of words together. They have become increasingly popular in recent years, shaping the way we express ourselves and communicate ideas.

Let’s delve into the fascinating world of portmanteaus. – Brexit: One of the most well-known portmanteaus in recent history, Brexit, combines “Britain” and “exit” to refer to the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union.

This clever fusion captures the essence of the event succinctly. – Sexting: The fusion of “sex” and “texting,” sexting refers to the act of sending sexually explicit messages or images through digital platforms.

This portmanteau perfectly encapsulates the technologically mediated aspect of modern relationships. – Sexile: When someone is forced to leave their living space due to sexual activities of others, they are experiencing sexile.

This quirky portmanteau skillfully combines “sex” and “exile,” painting a vivid picture of the situation at hand. – Spandexual: This playful term combines “spandex” and “sexual,” describing a person who has a sexual attraction to those who wear spandex.

It exemplifies the broad and imaginative nature of portmanteaus.

Origins of Portmanteaus

The credit for popularizing portmanteaus goes to Lewis Carroll, the author of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and the aforementioned “Through the Looking Glass.” In these whimsical tales, he used linguistic creativity to build an array of new words. His character Humpty Dumpty famously explains the concept of a portmanteau to Alice, saying, “You see, it’s like a portmanteauthere are two meanings packed up into one word.” Carroll’s playful approach to language continues to inspire and shape modern communication.


Verbing in Everyday Language

Verbing is the process of transforming nouns or other parts of speech into verbs. This unique linguistic adaptation breathes new life into words, allowing them to take on dynamic and action-oriented meanings.

Let’s explore some examples of verbing in action. – Networking: In our increasingly connected world, networking has evolved from being solely a noun to a verb.

Now, we actively engage in networking, building relationships and creating opportunities. – Adulting: A term that gained popularity in recent years, adulting refers to the act of behaving like an adult or taking on adult responsibilities.

This playful verb perfectly captures the transition from adolescence to adulthood. – Verbed Companies: Verbing hasn’t just affected our conversations; it has also shaped brand names.

Companies like Google and Xerox have become so ingrained in our culture that they have been verbed. We now “Google” information and “xerox” documents, highlighting the impact of verbing on our everyday language.

History of Verbing

Verbing is not a recent linguistic phenomenon; it has been happening for centuries. The English language has a long history of repurposing words, often to the chagrin of language purists.

As Calvin from “Calvin and Hobbes” once poignantly stated, “Verbing weirds language.” However, this evolution of language is a natural process that reflects society’s changing needs.


Language is far from static. It adapts and evolves to suit the ever-changing landscape of human communication.

Portmanteaus and verbing exemplify the creative and dynamic nature of language, shaping our conversations and the way we express ourselves. As we continue to navigate the intricate web of words, let us embrace the power of linguistic creativity and appreciate the beautiful tapestry of language that surrounds us.

Tmesis and Building Your Own Vocabulary

Tmesis – Breaking through the Language Barrier

In the realm of language, creativity knows no bounds. Tmesis, derived from the Greek word meaning “to cut,” is a linguistic phenomenon that involves separating a word or phrase into two parts, with another word or phrase sandwiched in between.

This playful technique serves to add emphasis or inject a bit of humor into our conversations. Let’s explore this colorful aspect of language and dive into some entertaining examples.

When it comes to tmesis, superlatives reign supreme. Adding a word or two in the middle of an adjective allows us to elevate the intensity of our expression.

For instance, instead of simply saying “ridiculous,” we can emphasize its absurdity by exclaiming “ri-gosh-darn-diculous!” The inserted word acts as a delightful pause, drawing attention to the heightened emotional reaction we wish to convey.

Building Your Own Vocabulary Buffet

The English language is a seemingly infinite buffet of words, waiting to be devoured. With the power to forge new words and repurpose existing ones, we have the ability to build our own vocabulary, crafting unique expressions that resonate with our own experiences.

Enter the “turducken” – a culinary marvel that combines a chicken, stuffed inside a duck, stuffed inside a turkey. This scrumptious example embodies the spirit of building your own vocabulary.

Just as we construct this culinary masterpiece, we can also construct words that encapsulate specific concepts or situations. By blending existing terms, we create new linguistic delicacies that add flavor and depth to our conversations.

The Evolution of Word Meanings

The Dynamic Nature of Language

The meanings of words are not set in stone; they evolve over time as society changes. Sometimes, this evolution takes a rather unexpected turn, leaving us perplexed and amazed at the power of language to transform.

Take the word “literally,” for example. Originally used to convey a factual statement, its meaning has expanded to include emphasis or figurative language.

We now find ourselves saying, “I literally died laughing!” when, in fact, we did not experience a physical demise. Another notable example is the word “trainwreck.” Its original purpose was to describe a disastrous event involving a train.

However, in the realm of popular culture, it has taken on a different meaning. We now use it to describe any situation or person that is chaotic, disorganized, or heading towards disaster.

Language has a way of adapting to our needs, even if it means veering away from its original intent.

Language Refusing to Stand Still

Language is a dynamic force, fueled by creativity and the ebb and flow of human expression. As expected, not everyone welcomes these linguistic changes with open arms.

This resistance to language evolution has birthed a unique group known as curmudgeons, individuals who staunchly oppose the shifting and repurposing of words. Yet, language refuses to stand still.

It will continue to grow, shape-shift, and adapt to the needs of its users. It is in this constant state of change that language stays relevant, vibrant, and alive.

Embracing the evolution of word meanings allows us to engage in rich and dynamic conversations, giving our language the freedom to explore new horizons.


Language is a living entity, ever-evolving and adapting to the needs of its users. From the delightful playfulness of tmesis to the creation of our own linguistic delights, language empowers us to express ourselves with colorful precision.

As we witness the evolution of word meanings and the resistance of curmudgeons, let us remember that the power of language lies in its ability to connect, communicate, and explore the depths of human experience. So let us revel in the wonders of language, celebrating its creativity, flexibility, and its undeniable ability to shape our world.

The Singular “They” and Language Inclusivity

The Power of the Singular “They”

Language has the power to both reflect and shape our understanding of the world. The singular “they” is a linguistic tool that is gaining recognition as a gender-neutral way to refer to individuals without assuming their gender identity.

By using this pronoun, we can foster inclusivity and respect for diverse gender identities. The singular “they” acts as an all-inclusive pronoun, allowing individuals to express their gender identity without conforming to traditional binary pronouns.

This flexibility acknowledges and respects a person’s self-identified gender while creating a space where everyone feels seen and heard. It is an integral part of building a more inclusive society.

The Historical Usage of the Singular “They”

Though the singular “they” is experiencing a resurgence in modern usage, its existence can be traced back centuries. Some of the most celebrated literary figures, including William Shakespeare and Geoffrey Chaucer, employed this alternative pronoun in their works.

Shakespeare, in his famous play “A Comedy of Errors,” writes, “There’s not a man I meet but doth salute me, as if I were their well-acquainted friend.” Here, Shakespeare uses the singular “they” to refer to an individual in a gender-neutral way. Chaucer also embraced the singular “they” in “The Canterbury Tales,” writing, “And whoso fyndeth hym out of swich blame, they wol come up.” This usage further shows the long-standing history and acceptance of the singular “they.”

Gender-Neutral Language in the Modern Era

Honorific Mx. – Beyond Male and Female

In our ever-evolving society, gender is no longer confined to strictly male or female categories. Gender-neutral terms and titles have emerged to accommodate and validate the experiences of non-binary and genderqueer individuals.

One such honorific is Mx., a gender-neutral alternative to Mr., Mrs., or Ms.

The honorific Mx. enables individuals to have a title that respects their gender identity without imposing societal expectations or assumptions. By embracing Mx., we can actively contribute to a more inclusive and respectful world where gender diversity is acknowledged and celebrated.

It serves as a symbolic step toward dismantling gender binaries and embracing the rich spectrum of gender identities.

Mainstreaming Gender-Neutral Language

The journey toward gender-neutral language has gained traction in recent years, with prestigious institutions and media outlets recognizing the importance of inclusivity. Oxford Dictionaries, known for documenting the ever-changing English lexicon, added Mx. to its dictionary in 2015, officially recognizing its legitimacy.

The New York Times, a leading publication, also adopted the singular “they” as a gender-neutral pronoun in its style guide, reflecting the shift towards embracing gender diversity. These instances demonstrate the mainstreaming of gender-neutral language, highlighting society’s growing recognition of the importance of inclusivity.

By embracing gender-neutral pronouns and honorifics, we create a linguistic landscape that reflects and respects the diverse identities and experiences of individuals.


Language is a powerful tool through which we can demonstrate inclusivity, respect, and understanding. The acceptance and recognition of the singular “they” and honorifics like Mx. represent important milestones in our quest for a more inclusive society.

As we continue to evolve and embrace gender diversity, it is vital that our language adapts to reflect the rich tapestry of human identity. By using gender-neutral language, we create space for individuals of all genders to feel seen, validated, and valued.

Let us continue this journey toward linguistic inclusivity, celebrating the power of words to shape our understanding and build a world that embraces and celebrates the diversity of human existence. In conclusion, language is an ever-evolving entity that reflects and shapes our understanding of the world.

The exploration of portmanteaus, verbing, tmesis, the evolution of word meanings, and the use of gender-neutral language all highlight the dynamic nature of communication. From Lewis Carroll’s playful inventions to the mainstreaming of gender-neutral pronouns, these linguistic phenomena demonstrate the power of language to foster inclusivity, respect, and understanding.

By embracing linguistic creativity, evolving word meanings, and embracing gender diversity, we create a space where individuals feel seen, heard, and valued. Let us celebrate the beauty and power of language and continue on the path toward a more inclusive and reflective society.

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