Portmanteau Words

I’m in the middle of writing a short story based on Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. It has required that I do a bit of homework and I just had to share one of the little snippets of “Something Neat I Learned Today.”  Well, maybe not completely new, but still interesting.

Portmanteau Word: A word formed by combining two other words 

Some of the most famous examples of this that most people may be familiar with are brought to us by Lewis Carroll. Humpty Dumpty explains to Alice in “Through the Looking-Glass,” they pack two meanings into one word (portmanteau = suitcase or valise). And throughout his works we see combinations such as “slithy toves” from Jabberwocky with “slithy” being a combination of lithe and slimy or “chortle” from snort and chuckle.

The combination of fantasy and logic and wordplay in Carroll’s works is a great reminder of how the absurd can sometimes make the most sense; not to mention carries a wonderful subtle humor.

Of course there are more modern versions like the dreaded infomercial (a lengthy commercial chock-full of product information). And I have to admit, I have a tough time finding any humor in those.

Story Trumps


You COULD Make it Up – from Lynne Truss at the BBC

A fascinating article about simply making things up.  It seems to have been written in response to the media furor over the 2007 Costa award winner Stef Penney who wrote, “The Tenderness of Wolves” and yet had never even been to Canada.

Over and over, writers are told to write what they know.  But what is an interesting contradiction is the fact that writers are to simultaneously be creative and imaginative. 

The author of the article doesn’t discount the importance of first-hand knowledge and detail, particularly if it can impact a sense of authenticity, but she emphasizes the fact that this is about a story.  And the writer’s job is to tell the story.

I guess my note of the day is that we can research and develop background as much as we would like. Collect reams of data and plunge the depths of the human psyche for the underlying “theme” but at the end of the day, fiction is fiction, and books (and movies) are about entertainment.

The raison d’etre of the writer – the story.

Spec Homework – House

It is that time of year again, where everything is bright and new and spec writing begins anew.

I enjoy a number of shows on television but the difficulty I’m finding right now is in finding copies of scripts from those shows so I can get an idea of what they look like “on the page.” They all seem to have their own idiosyncracies, some of it is in the filming and some, I suspect is present in the script.

In addition, as I don’t have a working recording device, I can’t record current season shows to review them over and over to get an idea of each show’s specific style.

I’ve borrowed Seasons 1 and 2 of House from a friend to try and analyze the writing and storylines. And I’ve found one script from Season 1 – Occam’s Razor, to help parse out this series’ story structure. Spent part of last week trying to break it down. So far, so good.


Now I need to do some of my own research into the medical side of things.

House Medical Reviews

It is kind of neat to follow how accurate or inaccurate the episodes are and it gives me a good resource to review prior medical events.

“Blind” is Bad? and Word Choice

I found a very interesting article from the November issue of the Ragged Edge Magazine at:

The author did a basic Internet search on the word “blind.”  What was fascinating to me and also the author was the prevalence of the use of the word “blind” to intimate something bad. Not just bad but “oblivious” and “ignorant.”

Kind of makes one think about other terms that have been used in the past regarding similar terms, perhaps “black” to signify “evil.”  I am not talking about earth-shaking revelations, but about the very fallible human frame of reference and how that framing can lead to negative stereotypes. It also makes me wonder about the growing use of the term “visually impaired.”

Is it all just political correctness and semantics or is it a way to maybe get away from the negative public gut-reaction to the term “blind?” Or, are we just running away from the issue and substituting one meaningless term for another?

Then, from a writer’s perspective, what difference does our word choice make?  When we choose a specific word we are setting up a certain expectation based on the reader’s (or viewer’s) background and baggage?  Is this something we should be cautious of?  What kinds of negative stereotypes can we be permeating by our use of certain language? 

 I don’t think we should be running around paranoid, but it is something to be mindful of.  In fact, it could be quite useful.  Certain words create certain expectations.  And for screenwriters who are working under the limits of the format, it gives us some leeway for other words.