Where Do Words Like Snowmageddon And Staycation Come From?

Feb 20, 2015

Author Mignon Fogarty, a.k.a. Grammar Girl

The weather remains unseasonably warm and dry in Northern Nevada, but as harsh winter weather keeps slamming the East Coast,  we've been hearing terms like snowmageddon and snowpocalypse in the national news.

Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss reached out to local author Mignon Fogarty, also known as Grammar Girl, to learn more about these mashed-up words and where they come from. It turns out the idea of shoving two words together for effect goes back to writer Lewis Carroll who did this quite a bit for his nonsense poem "Jabberwocky."

The actual linguistic term for these invented words is portmanteau, a French word referring to a type of suitcase that opens up into two separate parts. Fogarty has found that a lot of her readers are annoyed by portmanteaus, but advertisers love them because they can be quite memorable. A perfect example is the term staycation, which popped up during the recent recession when many families couldn't afford to travel.