Saturday, May 15, 2010

Street Bags

'When I use a word... it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.' Humpty Dumpty

'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you CAN make words mean so many different things.'

'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master—that's all.' from Through the Looking Glass

What's your bag? I call this place the bag shop, even though the shop on 11 Free Street is rightly called Portmanteau. They craft clothes and accessories here. Not cheap, but quite cool and attractive. Their windows always grab my eye as I walk by. I've always thought, you can tell a lot about a person from their bag and the 'things they carry' in it. Interesting word: portmanteau.
"portmanteau" comes from French porter, to carry + manteau, cloak (from Old French mantel, from Latin mantellum). In then-contemporary English, a portmanteau was a suitcase. In modern French, a portemanteau (or porte-manteaux) is a clothes valet, a coat-tree or similar article of furniture for hanging up jackets, hats, umbrellas and the like.
Of course, I first came across the concept in Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky" and the ideat of blending two words into one new word, with a new meaning. Today, portmanteaus are everywhere we look in our language: Amtrak(America/track), brunch(breakfast/lunch), smog(smoke/fog), spork(spoon/fork) and wikipedia(wiki/encyclopedia) to name just a few. I guess you could say, Mr. Dumpty was on to something when he had that conversation with Alice.

1 comment:

  1. And would Birdman be a portmanteau...the blending of bird and man? A man who can soar. That's you.