Portmonsteau words and films: They Came From the Blender!

At the Galway Film Fleadh this week I saw It Came From Connemara!!, a documentary about the great Roger Corman’s time producing films in the west of Ireland, specifically Connemara in Co. Galway – a short drive west of my adopted city. (Fleadh is Irish for festival or feast.)

It Came From Connemara!! – NSFW trailer here – is a fun, fond look back at that productive and sometimes controversial stint in the late 1990s and the lasting effects of Corman’s presence on the Irish TV and film industry. (The friend I saw it with worked there as an extra, and the audience included many of the crew from those years.)

It came from connemara - by dearg films brian reddin feat. roger corman

In a Q&A at the screening, director Brian Reddin said that Corman, now 88, is still a keen and active filmmaker, and that one of his recent titles is called Sharktopus Vs. Mermantula. This reminded me of a word I invented a couple of years ago and mentioned in a post on neologisms but which has yet to take the world by storm: portmonsteau.

Portmonsteau is a portmanteau word that blends portmanteau + monster. It fills a small semantic niche, but a useful one not least because there is a vogue for portmonsteau films* at the moment, Sharknado being among the best known if not revered. Others include the self-explanatory Piranhaconda, Cobragator, Arachnoquake, Dinocroc and Dinoshark. Some of these I found on Corman’s IMDb page.

roger corman presents sharktopus - 50% shark 50% octopus dvd coverI’d say in many cases the names came first and were a central part of these films’ marketing. Genre filmmaking has always begat weird little subgenres and pseudo-subgenres. Portmonsteau films are one such, and some survive better than others: Sharktopus didn’t just battle Mermantula (mutant hybrid of a mermaid and a tarantula, I guess), it also faced a pterodactyl/barracuda entity in Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda, another Corman production (trailer).

You may have noticed the overlap with extreme weather or natural disasters in coinages like Sharknado and Arachnoquake. It’s no accident: portmanteaus recur in descriptions of these events, too, as we see on social media (and sometimes in news media) whenever there’s a severe storm or cataclysm: frankenstorm, blizzaster, hurricarnage, snownado, snowmageddon, snowpocalypse

Severe weather and natural disasters, like monsters, are a staple of B-movies, so this lexical cross-fertilisation was probably inevitable. It may also be what lends snowmageddon and co. a rather tactless and flippant air when they refer to destructive events in the real world. But there’s no danger of offence being caused by terms like Sharktopus and Piranhaconda – whatever about the films themselves.

Zombienado vs. Sharktopocalypse, anyone?


* Not to be confused with portmanteau films.

17 Responses to Portmonsteau words and films: They Came From the Blender!

  1. sherry says:

    Too funny, love it! I guess if it rains real hard here, as it has been, we have a “tsun-soon” going on…call Noah, the ArkMan. I tell my dog, “It’s raining cats and dogs out there…recognize any of your friends?” LOL Thanks for the post!

  2. Brendano says:

    Or ‘portmoreau’ from ‘The Island of Doctor Moreau’. :-)

  3. sherry says:

    Or ‘portplanteau,” which is when you throw eggplant and other veggies in the blender to make vegetable juice…

  4. Stan says:

    Sherry: ArkMan sounds like a bona fide comic book character (though whether superhero or -villain, I can’t tell). I like portplanteau: verbal blends from the veggie blender.

    Brendan: A beast of a blend!

  5. alexmccrae1546 says:

    I’m holding my breath for a sequel to Corman’s “It Came From Connemara!!”, namely… ‘It Came From County Sligo!!”… the “It” being ‘Leprechauntua’— a crazed, malevolent, gargantuan Irish sprite gone over to the dark-side, who’s frankly too immense to hide under wee bridges, and could really care less about the legendary pot o’ gold at the end of the mystic rainbow. *

    *No offense intended to any native Irish folk out there who might read some shallow stereotyping of Irish folklore in my bit of spoofing.

    • Stan says:

      Alex: Frankly I would sooner watch Leprechauntua than Sharknado, and I figure a bit of light-hearted stereotyping is par for the course in B-movie-land. One of my favourite cinematic chimera names is Mant, for a half-man half-ant in a film-within-a-film, the latter being Matinee (1993).

  6. alexmccrae1546 says:

    @Stan…following up on your curious, yet intriguing “Mant” filmic beastie reference, this morning I dusted off my old, slightly jaundiced paperback copy of Argentine writer extraordinaire, the late Jorge Luis Borges’s engaging, alphabetically-ordered (A-Z) compendium of world mythological creatures– The Book of Imaginary Beings.

    “Zaratan” was his final entry, by-the-by.

    In doing a quick perusal of this masterfully written now-classic tome, I discovered another half-ant hybrid beastie… the other half being a lion, called the Mermecolion.

    (Mymex in Greek is the word for ant. Who knew?)

    The 19th-century French scribe Flaubert described this mythic creature as ” ‘lion in its foreparts, ant in its hind-parts, with the organs of its sex the wrong way.’ ” That last bit re/ its sex organs was a bit of a puzzler for me. (Let your imaginings run wild on that one. Ha!)

    Further, Borges references noted author E. B. White’s quoting a medieval literary source describing the Mermecolion thus: ” It had the face (or fore-part) of a lion and the hinder parts of an ant. Its father eats flesh, but its mother grains. If then they engender the ant-lion, they engender a thing of two natures…’ ”

    Hmm… sounds like the ultimate conundrum of the meat-eater vs. the vegan to me. Decisions… decisions.

    Can’t see indie-filmmaker Roger Corman jumping onto a Mermecolion-themed B-movie venture any time soon. Perhaps Disney Studios might take a risk for a change, and consider the possibilities… say ‘The Little Mermaid Meets the Mermecolion’? Oh!!!!… the inhumanity!

  7. Dan H says:

    Almost entirely off-topic observation.

    How common is it for portmanteau words to be structured the way you’ve structured them here, with the same word starting and ending the portmanteau? Most of the actual examples I’ve seen are strictly beginning in one place and ending in the other (Sharknado, Mermantula, and most other portmanteaus including, well, portmanteau).

    Not saying it’s wrong, just interested to see it.

    • Stan says:

      Dan: Do you mean that in portmonsteau the monster element is fully ‘inside’ the word and the other element, portmanteau, brackets it? It’s not a very common structure, I think, though I haven’t investigated.

      • sherry says:

        The main thing that comes to mind here, in terms of that construction, usually involves a curse word, like “unfuckingbelievable,” although both words are in there in their entireties. There is also stuff like “absatively” and “posolutely,” though a case could be made for these being standard beginning-of-one-word/end-of-the-other-word construction.

      • Stan says:

        Sherry: Yes, good point—I mean, absobloodylutely. It’s sometimes referred to as expletive infixation.

      • Dan H says:

        Yeah, that’s what I was referring to. I can’t think of a single other example off the top of my head. I’m not sure it’s quite the same as “abso-fucking-lutely”, because that feels like one word interrupting another rather than the two being combined to make a single new word.

      • Stan says:

        Right. It’s not the same, for the reason you say. Structurally they’re similar in that one word embeds another, but with infixation there’s no blending.

  8. […] don’t expect any of my whimsical coinages to catch on, but there’s hope yet for portmonsteau, ineptnorant, apostrophantom and the gang. […]

  9. […] linguisticky words with potential niche utility: idioslang, the slang used by a particular person; portmonsteau, a monster portmanteau word like Sharktopus or Dinocroc, first suggested here; and cinelect, the […]

  10. […] compounded (download); clipped (totes); affixed (globalisation), acronymised (radar); blended (snowmageddon); back-formed (donate); reduplicated (mishmash); coined (blurb); or formed from onomatopoeia […]

  11. […] in structure and meaning, like smog (smoke + fog), brunch (breakfast + lunch), and portmonsteau (portmanteau + monster). That last one hasn’t caught on yet. They should be distinguished from compound words like […]

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