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Compound Words vs Portmanteaus

There seems to be a lot of confusion regarding the creation of new words, so I feel like I didn’t do a very good job explaining it. Let me try again. :)

The anon wanted to create a new Latin word meaning “bed of bitterness” by taking the “amar” from the Latin word “amaritudo” (meaning “bitterness”) and combining it with the “veus” from the Latin word “alveus” (meaning “bed”), assuming the result “amarveus” would translate in Latin to “bed of bitterness.”

The anon referred to J.K. Rowling’s method of creating the name “Voldemort” by combining the French words meaning “flight of death.”

The difference between these methods is this:

When you break down “Voldemort” you get three actual words meaning “flight of death.” Vol = flight, de = of, and mort = death. This is, technically, a compound word because it is three individual words that have their own meaning. The combination results in a word that derives its meaning from the individual parts. If Voldemort was an English name, he’d be Lord Flightofdeath.

But, when you break down “amarveus” you get “amar” and “veus” which themselves don’t mean anything. The combined word “amarveus” can’t derive its meaning from the individual words because they’re not actual words–or stems–they’re just truncated parts of other words. This is not a compound but rather a “portmanteau,” which is where two or more words are truncated and combined to create a new word that derives its meaning not from the parts of the words used, but from the whole words those parts were taken from. For example, the “mo” from “motor” and “tel” from “hotel” were combined to create a new word meaning “place to stay when traveling by car.” The word “mo” doesn’t mean “car” and the word “tel” doesn’t mean “a place to stay.” So breaking the word into its individual parts doesn’t tell us the meaning of the word. Instead, you have to know what words were truncated in order to create the new word. After all, a “motel” could theoretically be a pastel-colored mole or a mantel over a moat. The only reason “motel” means what it does is because somebody created that word and started using it to mean “a place to stay when traveling by car.”

Other compound words:

Starfish = a “fish” shaped like a star
Bookcase = a case for storing books
Dishwasher = a device or person that washes dishes
Earache = an ache in the ear
Teacup = a cup for tea
Spaceship = a ship that travels in space
Tombstone = a stone that marks a tomb

Other portmanteaus:

Cockapoo = a Cocker Spaniel/Poodle mix
Sheeple = people who act like sheep by following the “herd”
Liger = a tiger/lioness hybrid
Biopic = a biographical movie
Romcom = a romantic comedy
Sitcom = a situational comedy
Sharknado = a fictional tornadic weather event containing sharks
Snark = a snide remark


So, my point is, you can’t just truncate two or more words, smash them together, and expect them to have automatic meaning. Sometimes the meaning of a portmanteau is obvious. What else could “sharknado” be? On the other hand a “romcom” could technically be a “Roman comedy,” a “romantic comeback,” or “romanticized combat.”

Since “amar” doesn’t mean “bitterness” and “veus” doesn’t mean “bed,” combining them to “amarveus” doesn’t mean “bed of bitterness.” It’s simply a portmanteau of “amaritudo” and “alveus,” so the meaning has to be clarified. Now, if you were to create a character named Tom Alveusamaritudo, then (like Voldemort) you would have a man whose surname means “bed of bitterness.” (Except, like I said before, “alveus” really means lake bed or river bed…)

I hope that makes more sense! :)

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