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Portmanteaux in engineering

Updated May 21, 2014

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This page probably falls somewhere in between trivia and useless information, but we'll go ahead and paste it up anyway, on account of we have terabytes of bandwidth...

Rocking those skorts (or is it a skort?)



Portmanteaux (that's the plural of portmanteau, do you ken, laddie?) are literary devices that combine two words into one with a blended meaning, like motel (motor hotel), spork (spoon fork) and skorts (skirt shorts, sometimes simply "skort"). Portmanteau is similar, but different from an acronym, which uses just a letter or two of words in a string to produce a new word or name.

The origin of the word has something to do with a suitcase that had two compartments, according to Wikipedia. Check out Wikipedia's post on Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky and you'll learn portmanteau from the master.

Engineers and their friends in marketing tend to be portmanteau creators, without even knowing the term. We'll throw out a few here and keep adding to the list as we come across more. Be sure to reference this page when you write your term paper on the subject...

alnico (aluminum nickel cobalt) technically this might be considered an acronym...

avionics (aviation electronics)

balun (balanced unbalanced)

blog (web log)

carrottenuator (carrot attenuator)

codec (coder-decoder)

compansion, compander (compression expansion)

conops (concept of operation)

diabesity (diabetes, obesity) a new term for Type II diabetes

elevon (elevator aileron)

email (electronic mail)

flexguide (flexible waveguide)

Flybrid (flywheel hybrid, a cool new technology for storing an releasing kinetic energy, the name is trademarked by a British Company, Flybrid Systems)

Fractenna (fractal antenna, thanks to Thomas! Fractal Antenna is an antenna company)

FraudoCAD (free AutoCAD)

freeware (free software)

gigital (gigahertz digital)

Greengineering (green engineering, actually a trademark of a land development company that should be able to cash in on it)

Gunnplexer (Gunn diode oscillator, duplexer). Thanks to Sebastian, who explains:

Gunnplexers are generally 2-way systems. They include the gun diode for signal generation and another microwave mixer diode for the receive path. The duplexer in a Gunnplexer actually works by means of separating the direction of the circular polarization.

HELIAX helical coax, a registered trademark of Andrews LLC

HiFi (high fidelity, remember that?)

klystron (Greek word "klyzo", which refers to waves breaking on a beach, combined with "electron")

linac (linear accelerator)

LORAN (ling range navigation, invented by Hall-of-Famer Alfred Lee Loomis)

mantenna (man antenna)

magnetron (magnet electron) thanks to Giorgio from Italy!

memristor (memory resistor)

modem (modulator demodulator) also thanks to Giorgio from Italy!

multipactor (multiple impactor)

nichrome (nickel chromium)

op-amp (operational amplifier)

photonics (photo electronics)

pleather (plastic leather)

Cakelike's song Lorraine's Car contains the lyric, "I'm gonna be sick all over your pleather, stop the car!" One of the greatest yet unappreciated all-girl acts of all time, in one of the greatest videos about a twisted topic: Lorraine is abducting kids. We need more girl bands in this world, ladies, get busy!

Lorraine's Car


Pokemon (pocket monster) Come to think of it, many of Pokemon names are portmanteaux...

radome (radar dome)

rectenna (rectifier antenna)

rectax (rectangular coax)

refudiate (something Sarah Palin once made up by accident out of Alaskan ignorance)

robocop (robot cop)

rojo (rotary joint)

satcom (satellite communications, often SATCOM or SatComm)

squarax (square coax)

sysop (system operator)

smog (smoke fog) (thanks to Drew!)

stiction (static friction, a problem associated with MEMS)

switchplexer® (switch multiplexer, trademark of Murata)

tabletizer (tablet digitizer, mostly obsoleted by touch screens)

tarmac (tar macadam) Scottish Engineer John McAdam developed the science of how to surface roads back in the 18th century known, in a process that came to be known as "macadam". Edgar Hooley patented a tar-gravel mix in 1902 in England and launched a business. Hooley's floundering Tarmac company was bought by Alfred Hickman in 1905 and who used steel mill tailings in the tarmac process, a win-win situation. Today, "tarmac" is used interchangeably with the word "asphalt".

thermistor (thermal resistor)

transceiver (transmitter receiver) (thanks to Drew!)

transistor (transfer resistor, coined by John Robinson Pierce)

transponder (transmitter responder)

turbojet (turbine jet)

turbofan (turbine ducted fan)

varactor (voltage variable capacitor)

varistor (voltage variable resistor) (thanks to Drew!)

vocoder (voice encoder, examples include military and musical)

WiBro (wireless broadband, a standard of Korea)

WiMax (wireless maximum)

WiFi (wireless fidelity)

WiGig (Wireless Gigabit)

Keep them coming, girls and boys!

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