The One with the Thoughts of Frans

What Is a Malamanteau?

The following article appeared on Wikipedia for a very short time due to a recent xkcd comic. It’s a reference back to Language Log, which references xkcd sometimes, but the reverse seldom happens.

A malamanteau (plural malamanteaux) is a neologism for a portmanteau created by incorrectly combining a malapropism with a neologism. It is itself a portmanteau of malapropism and portmanteau. In a less strict definition, a portmanteau of a malapropism with another word can also be considered a malamanteau. The contained malapropism must be typically a very common one, probably most people are not aware of, in order to be able to regain the meaning of a malamanteau.

A malamanteau often is created when somebody tries to use a neologism (alternatively, an idiom) but mistakenly confuses a word with another one. However, unlike a malapropism or an eggcorn, the fumbled word is not completely replaced, but merely transfixed to the new one. A famous example is: “misunderestimate” which was popularized by the 43rd President of the United States, George W. Bush. Probably it was intended to be “underestimate” but mistakenly jumbled with “misunderstand.”


  • Somebody describes his misunderstanding of what someone was saying by stating, “I misconscrewed it up.”
  • Somenone explains his inability to talk while being upset by saying he was “flustrated.”
  • A meaningful malamanteau is “ambiviolent,” as in: “Beatrix Kiddo in Kill Bill was ambiviolent. She didn’t know who to kill first.”

I was going to write more about it when I made this draft, but by now it’s two weeks later and I’ve lost interest. Booyah.

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