A portmanteau is a combination of words (both their sounds and meanings) that results in a new, hybrid word. And we? We’re clearly obsessed.
I recently found myself wedged between half of NYC’s tourist population while waiting in line for a Cronut.
At 8 a.m. on a Friday, the line was as dense as a Jaden Smith tweet and its standers equally as distressed: What if they’re sold out? I hear the Cronut is overrated. My friend says you haven’t lived until you’ve tried one.
Surely I was of the last few mortals who hadn’t yet sunk her teeth into the flakey Dominique Ansel confection. I’d avoided it forever out of defiance, refusing to wait for the glorified version of a timeless dessert. As far as I’m concerned, the Cronut became a phenomenon due to hype and exclusivity over a pastry that — if you compartmentalize the cro(issant) and the (dough)nut — already exists. Twice.
I feel similarly about brunch, or the concept of brunch as an experience: the kind enjoyed by urban millennials, specifically on the weekends, usually in the presence of diluted cocktails, avocado toast, and, yes, Cronuts. But to me, brunch is simply a combination of the words “breakfast” and “lunch.” It’s a portmanteau: the software update-equivalent for vocabulary, the easiest way to make your average noun more cool.
On the roster of that which we’ve fixed despite their original parts not being broken: eggocados (egg baked inside an avocado), doughkas (a doughnut/babka hybrid) and duffins (doughnut + muffins). But it’s not just food that’s being merged.
My inbox is flooded with Groupon e-mails extolling the virtues of Piloxing (Pilates + boxing) or Jazzercize (jazz + exercise). And God forbid I walk a mile without seeing some sort of advertisement for literotica (literature + erotica) sensation 50 Shades of Grey.
Recently, Rob Fishman wrote a compelling ode to men’s jeggings (jean + leggings) and if the success of Modern Family has taught us anything, it’s the comedic appeal of mockumentary-style (mock + documentary) filming.
Back in January, Amelia kissed the year 2014 goodbye while declaring it the year of the meddle; “Original states were no longer good enough. Everything was remixed.” We are, after all, a generation that craves the mashup music of Girl Talk and revels in the nostalgia of CatDog. We witnessed the death of Bennifer, the birth of Kimye, the commercialization of Chrismukkah, and we welcomed Frappuccinos with hungry, eager hearts.
But is it a lack of innovation that prompts these marriages? Or are they the supply-driven manifestations of our abridged attention spans? Do portmanteau fads have the same staying power that their original ideas had? (Woe is the day we see croissants go totally extinct!) Or perhaps it’s simply a matter of exhausting their two-as-one novelty. Maybe Cronuts are inevitably destined for the same fate as Go-Gurt — the all but forgotten snack that, apparently, launched a thousand ships.