About the Use of the Word ‘Portmanteau’ in Our July Issue

Words are fun.

In the July issue of D Magazine, the word “portmanteau” appeared in two stories. You may well wonder how rare an occurrence this was, and I will tell you how rare it was. From what I can gather, in the 40 years that the magazine has been in business, the word “portmanteau” has appeared in our pages just four times — including the two examples from July.

Zac used the word in his profile of Councilman Dwaine Caraway, explaining that when a constituent called him “trill,” he was combining the words “true” and “real.” And I used the word in my profile of Matt Rutledge, whose former company Woot combined the words “wow” and “loot.” At least two readers noticed our “portmanteau”s:

We got a letter from Lee Rogers in Fort Worth, who said:

“Nice to see that Zac Crain and Tim Rogers both subscribe to the ‘Word of the Day’ vocabulary builder. How else to explain both of them using the obscure word ‘portmanteau’ in their respective articles?”

And, more recently, internet user man Andy Orrock gave us props on Twiter:

I don’t know about Zac, but I do receive a daily word-of-the-day email from Bryan Garner. That ain’t how I came to be familiar with “portmanteau,” though. And I know the word has been in Zac’s toolbox for quite some time. A few years back, we were walking from the office to our parking garage, and Zac was making fun of whatever rucksack I was then using to tote around my laptop and other personal effects. I have always marveled at Zac’s refusal to carry anything that doesn’t fit in his pockets. Anyway, I referred to my bag as a portmanteau, which confused Zac, because he only knew the word as meaning a combination of two others. I helpfully explained that it was a French word for a traveling bag with two compartments, which is how it came to also have the definition he was familiar with.

Fascinating, right?

Flash forward several years. Zac and I both turned in stories that used the word. We read each other’s copy.

“How the hell can we publish a magazine that uses that word twice?” I asked.

“We can’t,” Zac said. “You’ll have to change yours. Use the word ‘mashup’ instead.”

“YOU use ‘mashup,’” I said. “The right word is ‘portmanteau,’ and it is mine, sir!”

It escalated quickly, and Zac and I wound up on the floor of the office, each with the other in a death grip, trying to choke the would-be portmanteauer into submission. After about two hours of this, we came to the conclusion that we were evenly matched, and we each would have our way with the word.

That is how it happened. Let the record reflect.

UPDATE: I went and checked the other two instances in which the word appeared in the magazine. You know what? Zac is responsible for three of the four “portmanteau”s that have been published in the magazine. He edited this story written by Carol Shih and inserted it into her copy. And though he was uncredited, he wrote this intro to “The 20 Best Breakfasts.” Amazing.


  • DelkusSleeves

    Even though Tim carries a bag with 2 compartments, he still carries a big bag of nothing. J/K, love you. toodles. P.S. when will we have working elevators in the Arts District Garage again

    • Tim Rogers

      Don’t know and don’t care. I always use the stairs.

      The bigger question: when we will get kicked out to make more spaces available for tenants of that building, which rises just outside my office window, even as I type these words?

  • RAB

    Tim and Zac locked in combat on the floor — a human portmanteau! I would bet that Tim was the bottom.

  • Webster

    I hope you start using this word as much as you use the phrase “ad hominem attack.”

  • zaccrain

    I now own this word.

    • RAB

      And Tim.

  • Nat

    Wow! Today, I just introduced my students (enrolled in my community college English prep class) to plagiarism which lead to words and phrases that are copyrighted. One of those words we examined was Pat Riley’s three-peat- a portmanteau. Students did not know Pat Riley, were not alive during the Lakers’ quest for the three-peat, and were not interested in the term, portmanteau. Tim, I am glad you are!

  • DelkusSleeves

    As an employee of a very large company that parks it employees there, I too wonder when we will be told to vacate said parking garage, and also wonder where they plan on dumping us. I’m spoiled with the garage parking and don’t know if I can handle being dumped onto surface parking and having to get into a car that is 130 degrees in July

  • Wylie H Dallas

    This reeks of a cover-up.