#atozchallenge: Zillionaire

zillionaire =
zillion + millionaire


Remember when having a million dollars was a big thing?

Now, a million dollars is nothing. $1,000,000 today was worth $136,644.86 fifty years ago. You’d need $7,318,240.74 in 2016 dollars to equal what you had if you had $1,000,000 in 1966. (Numbers courtesy the US Inflation Calculator.)

(Yes, I know, not everyone lives in the United States. This is just an example.)

We used to look at millionaires as beig ultra-wealthy. Those who had more than a million were multimillionaires. Now, we’re talking about billionaires. I mean, Bill Gates has $75 billion dollars. He’s the richest man in the world. One day we’re going to be talking about trillionaires, and quadrillionaires….

But that’s not important for our purposes. When someone is very, very wealthy, and you don’t know how much money they have, you make up a number. Like a zillion. It’s not an actual number that you can express in 10x format, but everyone understands it’s a lot. In other words, a zillionaire is someone with a zillion dollars.

What did you call your big numbers when you were younger?


And that’s it! My last entry in this year’s Blogging from A to Z April Challenge! Thanks for reading and commenting. What did you think of this theme?

#atozchallenge: Yinglish

Yinglish =
Yiddish + English


Remember these commercials for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups?

The same thing happens when languages collide: there’s some transfer of words, phrases, and expressions between the two languages. In the case of Yinglish, this would be Yiddish speakers with the English language and vice versa. Lots of words and expressions have crossed over from Yiddish into English, such as bagel, shlemiel, oy gevalt, mazel tov, and yenta. Expressions like, “what am I, a doctor?”, “on you, it looks good,” and “all right, already!” maintain the Yiddish word order, but use the English words. And some words have crossed over from English and become part of the Yiddish language. Leo Rosten, who wrote the book The Joys of Yinglish, calls those words Ameridish, a portmanteau of American and Yiddish.

You see other portmanteaus to describe the combinations of other languages with English…

Spanglish: Spanish and English
Franglish: French and English
Hinglish: Hindi and English
Denglish: German (Deutsch) and English
Dunglish: Dutch and English
Chinglish: Chinese and English


English is a mutt of a language anyway, based in Anglo-Saxon and borrowing words from Latin, Greek, Arabic, Gaelic, and practically all the other languages on earth. This should come as no surprise. There are those who believe that languages should be pure and exhibit very little influence of other languages. I’m not sure that’s possible, or desirable. What do you think?


#atozchallenge: Ten (X) More Portmanteaux

x-asperation =
x + exasperation

The letter X, let’s face it, is, pardon my French, an enormous pain in the ass. Very few words in English start with it, and when they do, it’s pronounced like Z, as in xanthan gum and xylophone. Why not just spell them zanthan gum and zylophone and be done with it? Speaking of xylophones, here are Reg Kehoe and his Marimba Queens.

I love that video, especially the bass player, Frank DeNunzio, Sr. He really gets into it, doesn’t he?

Anyway, X is also the Roman numeral for ten, so here are ten more portmanteaux, or portmanteaus, if you prefer.

  1. mimsy (miserable + flimsy): The man who gave the name to portmanteau words was C. L. Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, in his book Through The Looking Glass. Humpty Dumpty is the one who introduces the concept to Alice from high atop his wall.
  2. CONELRAD (Control of Electromagnetic Radiation): Like FedEx, CONELRAD is a syllabic abbreviation, which are portmanteau words after a fashion. CONELRAD was a technique designed by the Office of Civil Defense back in the 1950’s to deal with the possibility of an attack by a hostile nation (at the time, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, now the Russian Federation and presumably no longer hostile). Theoretically, it prevented an enemy bomber from dropping an atomic bomb on a city by taking away a bomber’s ability to use radio and television signals to zero in on a city, much as we Americans did to Germany in World War II. Wikipedia (the blogger’s best friend) has a very good article on the subject.
  3. Cockapoo (cocker spaniel + poodle): Portmanteaux are used frequently to name cross-breeds of dogs, such as the cockapoo, the maltipoo (Maltese + poodle), and the like. While not recognized as a breed by the American Kennel Club and other certification organizations, the cockapoo is a popular dog, small and long-lived.
  4. Kimye (Kim Kardashian and Kanye West): Supercouples are popular, wealthy, or powerful couples that get a lot of attention from the public, mostly because they get a lot of attention from the tabloid press. Portmanteaus of their names are common: Bennifer (Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez), TomKat (Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes), Brangelina (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie), and Billary (Bill and Hillary Clinton) are examples. Occasionally, pairings of characters on television shows get the same treatment, such as Tiva (Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherley) and Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) from NCIS) and HarMac (Harmon Rabb (David James Elliott) and Sarah “Mac” McKenzie (Catherine Bell) from JAG).
  5. Sharknado (shark + tornado): This was a 2013 movie starring Ian Ziering and Tara Reid. Here’s the premise: “When a freak hurricane swamps Los Angeles, nature’s deadliest killer rules sea, land, and air as thousands of sharks terrorize the waterlogged populace.” I’ve never seen it (I think it aired on cable network Syfy in the US), but there was a lot of talk about it, most of it derisive…
  6. broccoflower (broccoli + cauliflower): What do you do with two cruciferous vegetables that kids won’t eat? Cross-breed them and make a third vegetable kids won’t eat, of course! (The difference between broccoli and boogers is that kids won’t eat broccoli…)
  7. surfactant (surface active agent): A word that I didn’t know was a portmanteau. If you read the content list of laundry detergent, most of them have (maybe it’s changed and this is no longer the case, I don’t know) one called “anionic surfactants.” They loosen the dirt and bring it to the surface, where agitation and other chemical compounds can remove it.
  8. Snowmageddon (snow + armageddon): Here’s one you’ve seen here. Snowmageddon generally refers to a major snowstorm that dumps lots of snow on an area and ties up traffic so badly that you’re better off staying in and waiting until the snow is removed, or, better, until it melts. That’s generally what we do here in Atlanta, which has everyone in stitches any time it happens, because a bad snowstorm in Atlanta typically leaves one to two inches. We’ve had far worse snow events here, though, believe me.
  9. simulcast (simultaneous broadcast): This is broadcasting an event over more than one medium simultaneously. In the 1970’s, before high-fidelity, stereo sound was possible via television, a local TV station broadcasting a concert would work with an FM radio station in the same market to broadcast the audio simultaneous with the video. The viewer could then watch the TV with the sound off and listen to the radio, and the picture (usually) matched with the sound. This could also refer to two radio stations airing the same programming, or someone publishing the same blog material on WordPress and Blogger…
  10. Texarkana (Texas + Arkansas + Louisiana): I talked back on March 25 about geographic names that are portmanteaus of the geographic areas that comprise them. Texarkana, Texas and Texarkana, Arkansas are twin cities that sit either side of the Texas-Arkansas border, and both are cities in an area called Arklatexoma, where Arkansas, Louisiana (postal abbreviation LA), Texas, and Oklahoma come together. Another example of this are the Benelux countries: Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.

This was a little longer than most entries, but I wanted to show how portmanteaus are used all through the English language. There are portmanteaus in other languages as well. I’ve referred to this list on Wikipedia for most of the portmanteaus I’ve used here, and there are many other lists on the World Wide Web. They’re a lot of fun, and I hope you’ll take some time to look into them in more detail.


#atozchallenge: Webinar

webinar =
World Wide Web + seminar


By now, anyone who works for, or used to work for, a high-tech or an international company has taken part in a webinar. They’re great, because no one has to travel. Instead of getting on a plane and flying to the meeting location, you sign in to a website like Webex or GoToMeeting at a specific time and enter a key they give you, and at the appointed time, or whenever you reach a quorum, the seminar begins. The leader can speak and share things from their computer screen, from PowerPoint, and everyone signed in to the webinar can listen watch. If someone has a question, they can click a button on their screen which pops up a place for them to type their question, and when the leader sees someone has a question they can read it and answer it. The same technology can be used to conduct other types of meetings, and often is, again if people are geographically dispersed. You can then archive the meeting, so people who can’t be there at the time can access it when it’s convenient and hear and see what went on.

Some personal experiences:

  • The last company I worked for used webinars and web meetings a lot, because we had offices around the world and people onsite with clients all the time.
  • After that company and I parted ways, I worked for my brother, who’s in Kansas City, and I never had to actually be there: he could call me, or we could use Skype to talk to one another.
  • I’m a member of a writer’s group in Ann Arbor, Michigan. We meet using Google Hangouts.

The hardest thing about webinars and web meetings is coördinating people’s times. With people all over the world, a time that might be good for Asia might not be good for North America, and having to remember how many hours ahead or behind everyone is can be a pain. We ran into this with the Twitter chats we had for the Challenge, especially when the US went on Daylight Saving Time. A good website to use is TimeAndDate.com, which uses world time and computes local time based on the time zone and whether or not they’re on summer time.

Have you participated in any webinars or web meetings?


#atozchallenge: Velcro

Velcro =
velours + crochet


I did the original V entry last month, but forgot to tell WordPress that I wanted to post it today instead of right away, and it got out on me. I decided to come up with another word for V, and it’s a good one.

Swiss engineer George de Mestral took his dog for a walk in the woods one day in 1941, and ended up having to pick burrs off his pant legs and his dog. That gave him an idea for a fastener that would work the same way. In 1948, he made two strips, one with hundreds of tiny hooks and the other with hundreds of tiny loops, so that when pressed together they would stick to each other.

He named his invention Velcro, from the words velours crochet, or “velvet hook” in English, and it was patented in 1961. The Velcro Corporation, based in Curaçao, owns the name and the patent. They state that Velcro is a company, not a product, to keep the word from being used as a generic term for “hook and loop fastener.”

Velcro makes my life easier. Because my right hand was affected by the stroke, I can’t use both hands to tie my shoes, so my shoes have straps with Velcro strips. All I need to do is press them together, and I’m good to go. I also have a pocket on my laptop bag that’s held shut with Velcro.

What part does Velcro play in your life?