Dr. Goodword’s Language Blog


Back in the spring Paula Gray was taking the Rebel-Yankee test and dropped a few lines about some terms used in Louisiana:

“The word bundlesome is still used in southwest Louisiana. Another word used by the same person is toucheous, meaning sensitive or painful to the touch, as in “That scrape on my arm will be fine, but it is still a bit toucheous today.”

“Also, several years ago, my young son coined the word gription, which is now popular in our family. He was complaining that the soles of his athletic shoes were wearing out. The vinyl or plastic soles had become hard and slick. He described them as “not having enough gription anymore.” I suppose it is a combination of grip and traction.”

Well, gription is a blend or portmanteau of just the two words Paula picked. Portmanteaus are that recent phenomenon of smushing two words together when the meanings of both apply and the result is a reasonably well-sounding word: motel (motor+hotel) and smog (smoke+fog) are the classical examples cited most frequently.

What is not as widely known is that blends are a common form of speech error, when we mentally look up a word for a sentence and find two that fit the context and they are phonetically similar or compatible. One of my students was speaking of the immaturity of her peers at the college and referred to it as “this universery”, a blend of university and nursery. We all got a laugh. If they stick, they are called portmanteaus because two words are packed into one.

Bundlesome and toucheous are more interesting. Bundlesome is a substitute for burdensome and may be a blend of burden and bundlesome. In any event is a correctly formed word in a class with loathsome, frolicsome, troublesome, though the connection between bundle and “heavy” is a bit flimsy.

Toucheous, however, comprises an Anglicized word touch mismatched with a Latin ending remindful of talkative–a mismatch which has survived. It is not from standard French but I wonder if it is from Cajun French? Not speaking that dialect, I cannot say for sure but suspect that it is another mismatch of an English stem with a Latin ending.

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