Logophile Tuesdays: Portwomanteau

Anne brought to my attention, this week, the use of an appalling portmanteau: “womenpreneurs.” This is unclear if this is a more grievous offence to women, or language. I would argue that it is a worse crime against the latter.

Regarding women, it is simply adding gender to a term that was previously fairly gender-neutral and celebrating the long tradition of reminding ladies that professional discourse is male by default and female only by exception. That is to say, business as usual.

Regarding language though, the offending speaker (yes this was used in actual conversation) managed to not only butcher the fine art of the portmantau by having the flow and emphasis completely wrong within the word, but also managed to ignore the fact that “entrepreneur” is a masculine form of a french word for which there is a valid feminine version: “entrepreneuse,” so they mangled two languages at once.

As I softly wept for the tortured words, Ashley chimed in with other portwomanteaus that she had encountered: femcees (female emcee), and ladyprov (lady improv). That’s right, improv commedians couldn’t come up with a better term than ladyprov, as if a term was even needed.

Excuse me as I go burn a thesaurus in protest.

Thanks also to Lauren, Jon, Beth, Donna, Becka and Bart for your contributions to the conversation that inspired this post. Not Eric, though. You know why.


Ryan is a professional nerd, teaching engineering in the frozen north. Somewhat less professionally, he is a costumer, author, blacksmith, juggler, gamer, serial enthusiast, and supporter of the Oxford comma. He can be found on twitter and instagram @studentofwhim. If you like what I do here, feel free to leave a tip in my tipjar.

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