'man-' blends (was: "bromance")

Damien Hall halldj at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Thu Mar 27 14:30:38 UTC 2008

Larry asked us to help fill in his blank about blends and portmanteaux with an
initial element 'man-', 'm-' or similar.  Now that I'm actually trying to think
of them, I have a similar blank, but one possibility I _can_ think of is

manbag < man + (hand)-bag

to denote the usually rectangular, often leather bags that have become popular
for men (at least in Europe) recently, serving a purpose analogous to that of a
lady's 'handbag' (a 'purse' in AmE;  BrE 'purse' = AmE 'wallet').

You could say that _manbag_ doesn't qualify as a blend / portmanteau since it
could be derived straightforwardly from _man_ + _bag_, but the use of the term
is certainly intended to evoke the similarity with a _handbag_, including a
slight insinuation of campness / preciousness on the part of the manbag's
carrier.  The phonology of the word fits with it being a derivation from
_handbag_, too, given the deletion of _handbag_'s /d/ in this context.  (But I
note that, for me, the deletion of /d/ and consequent creation of the
environment /nb/ here doesn't lead to place-assimilation of the nasal, so that
I still pronounce _handbag_ differently from _ham bag_, at least in careful

Anyway, _manbag_ has ~99,000 Yahoo! hits.  One of the top ones is the Wikipedia
page on the item:


The author of that page agrees with me that the term is a portmanteau of _man_
and _handbag_, and gives a technical definition of the term in terms of the
types of bag that it includes.  Also, one of the sponsored advertisements
appearing on the search page makes the connection between _manbag_ and
_handbag_ explicit.

[Side note:  following the discussion and analysis of the possible overinflation
/ inaccuracy of Google hits as a measure of popularity, and the suggestion that
Yahoo! might be better, I'm converting to that.  For _manbag_, Google had
~254,000 hits.  And I propose the obvious contraction _yahits_ for _Yahoo!

Also, it may be reaching a little bit, but possibly the phrase _man flu_ fits
into this category?  In my experience the phrase is most often used by women
wishing to deride their male friend / partner etc for exaggerating his common
cold, but men can use it self-deprecatingly too.


Clearly the phrase can be seen as straightforward _man_ + _flu_, but I propose
that it may have come about on the analogy of other NPs where the N was _flu_
(_bird flu_ etc).

Damien Hall
University of Pennsylvania

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list