A Dictionary of Portmanteaux

The Roots of Twerking, Cronut and More are Unraveled in a Frisky Animation from Christian Borstlap

A portmanteau is the result of linguistic liaison: two words come together and create a single offspring that combines the meanings of both parents. One of the stars of today’s vibrant animation from Christian Borstlap is the ‘cronut’—for those not too busy queuing for one at Dominique Ansel’s New York bakery, the cronut is a ‘croissant’ and a ‘donut’. While it’s not quite a genetically modified ‘Frankenfood’ (‘Frankenstein’ and ‘food’), the cronut still has the feel of something devised amid steam and Bunsen burners, while lightning splits the sky. The word portmanteau was first used in its modern sense in Lewis Carroll’s 1871 novel Through the Looking Glass; the term itself derives from a French portmanteau, combining porter, to carry, and manteau, cloak. When Carroll came upon it, it meant a suitcase with two compartments; he reinvented it so it would apply to the textual process itself—“two meanings packed up into one word,” Humpty Dumpty explains to Alice. Carroll invented the portmanteau ‘galumph’ (a blend of ‘gallop’ and ‘triumph); ‘chuckle’ and ‘snort’ gave birth to ‘chortle.’ The fashion that he inspired produced ‘electrocute’ (‘electricity’ and ‘execute’) and ‘prissy’ (‘prim’ and ‘sissy’). Yet portmanteaux reach their pinnacle when they exist away from the page, appearing before your very eyes in the form of crossbred animals. ‘Liger’ is of course a lion and tiger cross. ‘Wholphin’ is a whale and a dolphin—though just saying wholphin out loud induces the feeling that we passed through the looking glass somewhere near the last bus stop.

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    Dragon Boat Race

    Bruce Lee and the Beijing Opera Star in Christian Borstlap’s Race Through Chinese History

    The spectacle of the Dragon Boat Race, held annually throughout China, inspires filmmaker Christian Borstlap to voyage through seminal events in Chinese culture in today’s animation. The aquatic national occasion on June 23 celebrates the life of Qu Yuan, a Chinese statesman and poet who flung himself into the Miluo River in protest against imperial corruption, as part of the Duanwu festival marking the summer solstice. To pounding drums, teams comprised of around 20 paddlers compete in brightly colored, ceremonially decorated boats ornately carved with potent dragon imagery at their bow and stern. “I looked for a visual link in the design of the boats which wouldn't make it too old fashioned,” explains Borstlap of his film's aesthetic cues. “These circle-shaped dragon scales then became the key element, and the basis for much of the design.” In Borstlap’s short, the 2,000-year-old tale segues into a vivid panorama taking in the country’s most monumental events, from the invention of papermaking and woodblock printing to the rise of Bruce Lee and the triumphant Beijing Olympics. Asked which moment in Chinese history he’d go back to, Borstlap was unequivocal: “The invention of gunpowder! And a cup of tea with Bruce Lee would have been nice...”

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    Roman Coppola x Jason Schwartzman

    A Quick-Witted Love Letter From Indie Hollywood's Favorite Cousins

    Film royalty Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman conspire with YouTube virtuoso Graydon Sheppard of “Sh*t Girls Say” fame to create today’s videogram, which features the cousin duo bantering on love and obsession. Shooting six-second vignettes on the iPhones inspired by Twitter’s new mobile app Vine, Sheppard pays homage to Coppola’s latest feature A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III, whose comic flavor hinges on absurdist amorous pursuits. The film stars Charlie Sheen as an unrepentant LA playboy who spirals out of control when his girlfriend leaves him and enlists the help and guidance of best friend Kirby Star—played by Schwartzman—to win her back in a 1970s-style romp complete with surreal revenge fantasies and winking parallels to Sheen’s own very public meltdown. A recent Academy Award nominee for Best Original Screenplay, Coppola is the son of polymath Francis Ford and brother of fellow filmmaker Sofia; Schwartzman, meanwhile, has made a name for himself starring in Wes Anderson films from Rushmore to Moonrise Kingdom, on which Roman collaborated, and cousin Sofia's Marie Antoinette. From major film production to casual smart phone clips, Coppola and Schwartzman know how to keep their sense of humor, while keeping it in the family. 

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