Monday, March 30, 2009


The title of this post arose from a conversation I once had with my friend Lauren about what I term “smart people words.” They’re these ultimately unimportant linking words that we use in conversation now and then but we might use a hell of a lot more if we’re arguing a case before a judge or writing up a business contract. When Lauren initially brought this up with me, I think her examples were inasmuch and insofar. They’re good ones. Use them too often in casual conversation and people will start to think you’re trying to prove something, of course, but using them sparingly puts forth the notion that you’re just to busy thinking, doing, and achieving to use separate words. Instead, you jam them together. You know, to eliminate the spaces in your speech.

One of Lauren’s points regarding this words — insofar, inasmuch, heretofore, hereinafter, notwithstanding, nevertheless, albeit and some other adverbs and conjunctions — is that English has other turns of phrase which work much in the same manner but which retain their spaces. A prime example is be that as it may, which I accidentally typed out a few days ago as bethatasitmay, for no apparent reason and without having thought of this conversation with Lauren for at least a year. I feel like there were others, but I can’t recall them now. Todoso? Asitwere? Sobeit? Whathaveyou?

Unless I’m mistaken, Lauren and I had this conversation on the drive back from Coachella, at a very early hour. If we didn’t, then we certainly should have, because it’s exactly the kind of thing people should have on early morning car rides — emphatic agreements shared epiphanies and all. I just recently bought tickets to this year’s Coachella. Maybe that jogged the memory?

EDIT: Following a little research, I found a few more words that consist of more than two words jammed together. They’re not all adverbs and conjunctions. There’s words like internal combustion engine, which essentially functions as a triple compound even though it retains its spaces, but there are also quite a few “honest,” jammed-together compounds. People posting on this site note quite a few: plainclothesman, crossbowman, backwoodsman, highwayman, whosoever, wherewithal and whatsoever. Someone even suggests whatchamacallit as an informal quintuple compound for what you may call it. I couldn’t think of or find any more compounds using three or more words.


  1. Holly4:34 PM


    I just did a google image search for "Valley Longhorn Elderberry beatle," and your blog was the first thing that came up. You crazy.

  2. Random. Why, may I ask, were you researching this little bugger?

  3. "there is SOMETHING to be said for this."

    I believe the above was a segue into or out of the aforementioned conversation. That being said. Whatsayyou 'bout portmanteaus (portmanteau words?)?

  4. I think portmanteau words are generally awesome, in that they've given us wonderful terms like spork and blaxploitation. (Even the term portmanteau is pretty cool in an of itself, though it's not a portmanteau word.) However, I kind of have to hate the concept of portmanteaus for having given English cute little blended words for awful things --- like electrocute and cremains. Sometimes, I feel, you owe a certain grim thing the dignity to speak its full name.

  5. Spencer11:31 AM

    Could you consider "portmanteau" a portmanteau word because it draws its origins (presumably) from the french "porte-manteau," or "coat carrier"?

  6. Holly3:41 PM

    I checking to see if they are still on the CA threatened species list, and Viola! Drew's blog. They are still on the list, bytheway.

  7. Okay, I have determined that portmanteau is not a portmanteau. It's a French compound of the imperative of porter, "to carry," and manteau, "mantle" or "cloak." Apparently nothing got eaten up in the transition.

  8. errrrrr. yes it did

  9. Okay, yes. But it's only the "E" at the end of the imperative porte, and those get dropped like they're nothing.