Talking About Words
residents of the University’s home state identify themselves
as Michiganders, while others opt for Michiganians as more high-toned.
A few even like Michiganite.
W. Bailey of the English department has traced the first documented
use of "Michigander" to an 1848 speech by Abraham Lincoln.
In Nineteenth Century English (University
of Michigan Press, 1996), Bailey cites Lincoln’s usage as
an example of word-formation by blending — Michigan + gander.
Forming a word
by blending parts of others, Bailey says, “was made famous
by Lewis Carroll, who in 1872 devised chortle as a blend of chuckle
and snort. Such creations he called ‘portmanteau words,’
drawing on the idea of a piece of luggage containing compartments.”
[See box.] Bailey lists other portmanteau words,
including squattocracy (1843 < squatter + aristocracy, Australia),
chattermag ‘chatterbox’ (coined by William Barnes from
chattering + magpie, 1844), squarson (1876 < squire + parson),
slanguage (1885 <slang + language), insinuendo (1885 < insinuation
+ innuendo), beerage (1891 <beer + peerage), brunch (1896 <
breakfast + lunch), smog (1905 < smoke + fog).
most part, these blends were, at least initially, intentionally
facetious,” Bailey says.
rhetoric probably fit Bailey’s requirements. In a July 27,
1848, speech in the US House of Representatives, the young Illinois
Whig was assailing Lewis Cass, the first governor of the Michigan
Territory, who was campaigning for the presidency at the time, and
running on a “popular sovereignty" (i.e., “state’s
rights”) platform that would have allowed the expansion of
slavery into territory gained in the Mexican
Cass and the Democrats of campaigning on the coat tails of the late
General and President Andrew Jackson, that is, of exaggerating their
a horde of hungry ticks you have stuck to the tail of the Hermitage
lion [Jackson] to the end of his life,” Lincoln said, “and
you are still sticking to it, and drawing a loathsome sustenance
from it, after he is dead. … But in my hurry I was very near
closing on the subject of military tails before I was done with
it. There is one entire article of the sort I have not discussed
yet; I mean the military tail you Democrats are now engaged in dovetailing
onto the great Michigander [emphasis added].
all his biographers (and they are legion) have him in hand, tying
him to a military tail, like so many mischievous boys tying a dog
to a bladder of beans. True, the material they have is very limited;
but they drive at it, might and main. He invaded Canada without
resistance, and he outvaded it without pursuit. As he did both under
orders, I suppose there was, to him, neither credit or discredit
in them; but they [are made to] constitute a large part of the tail.”
seem very clever at explaining words, Sir,” said Alice.
“Would you kindly tell me the meaning of the poem
“Let’s hear it,” said Humpty Dumpty. “I
can explain all the poems that were ever invented—and
a good many that haven’t been invented just yet.”
sounded very hopeful, so Alice repeated the first verse:
‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
“That’s enough to begin with,” Humpty
are plenty of hard words there.
‘Brillig’ means four o’clock in the afternoon—the
time when you begin broiling things for dinner.”
“That’ll do very well,” said Alice: “and
“Well, ‘slithy’ means ‘lithe and
‘Lithe’ is the same as ‘active’"
You see it’s like a portmanteau—there are two
meanings packed up into one word.”
—From Through the Looking Glass