Generation Portmanteau

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.

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  • Mae

    My question is this: Did you try a cronut? Because I happened upon one in Montreal and it did change my life, I can’t stop thinking about them, they are my precious.

  • This post was grool.

  • Allie Fasanella

    brunch is not just an urban millennial thing. my mother, an ancient (47) suburbian (is that a word?) and a bunch of her “lady friends” as she calls them, went off to brunch this past sunday and got obliterated all day.

    I like this and I miss go-gurt.

    • Esther Levy

      I miss go-gurt too. Every day of my life.

    • parkzark

      If you’ve never had frozen go-gurt plz try immediately.

      • Allie Fasanella

        on it gfriend

  • I don’t think it’s lack of innovation per se. It’s more of a “call it what it is” kind of thing, especially in the marrying of two food items. What’s a cronut? DUH, what do you think it is?

    Do they have staying power? I think what makes it so annoyingly popular is the fact that the so-called inventor made it so that no one else can sell a “Cronut”. The novelty of the cronut should wear off because you can only get the “real” thing at that one place, but maybe it won’t. there is a breakfast joint on the boardwalk a block away from my brother’s coffee shop in San Diego that has a line that goes around the corner every morning, this is not uncommon for things with a reputation.

    So maybe this goes two ways, there is the fad: brunch, everyone can sell it, everyone seems to enjoy it; and then there is the novelty: the sought out experience of the Real Thing. This can go for anything, really, and I always think of Debbie Reynold’s character Kathy Seldon in Singing in the Rain when she says [in regards to silent pictures] “if you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all!” (and isn’t that so true for brunch ANYWHERE?)

    The other day I was thinking about the mockumetary style television show and how old it’s getting.

    End note, I was a go-gurt HOUND and I watched Cat-Dog daily.

    • parkzark

      Definitely agree with you on the mockumentary style. After The Office and Parks and Rec, everything else is just kinda…meh

  • Portmanteration

    • Amelia Diamond

      you get a free Cronut for this one

  • We really need to stop doing this its ridnoxious


  • Kelsey Moody

    man rug-pelling: the state of your nether region when you boycott waxing

  • Heina Dadabhoy

    Jazzercise is super 80’s, though, and definitely not a new thing.

  • Céline

    Actually, the word in french in more complicated: it’s “porte (to carry) – manteaux (coats)” 🙂

  • Collins A.

    Can there be such thing as an aesthetic portmanteau?