Frankie Says ‘Chillax’ – A Brief History of Manglish

What is the world’s stupidest word? If that question has ever troubled you, then worry no more. The hunt is over. After many months and a search so exhaustive that would make the folks over at ‘the Voice’ seem lazy in comparison, we are finally ready to announce a winner. ‘Chillax’.

What is the world’s stupidest word?  If that question has ever troubled you, then worry no more.  The hunt is over.  After many months and a search so exhaustive that would make the folks over at ‘the Voice’ seem lazy in comparison, we are finally ready to announce a winner.  ‘Chillax’.

More than just a really stupid word, ‘chillax’ is an outright mutation.  Combining the words ‘chill’ and ‘relax’ in an unholy fusion, it is the fat end of the wedge.  Once, people complained vociferously at any attempt to dumb down the language.  Now such efforts are greeted with a simple ‘LOL’ or, worse still, L.  The battle has been lost. There is simply no way back from here.

I like to refer to this mangling of the language as ‘Manglish’.  Technically, though, ‘chillax’ is an ‘English blend’ or, if you prefer, a portmanteau.  But don’t let the term fool you.  Despite how it sounds, an ‘English blend’ is not something you brew in your tea pot of choice and then consume with a Monte Carlo in front of the fireplace.  Rather, it is the practice of taking two English words and combining them. It must stop.  Granted, plenty of people will, doubtless, describe the art of the English blend as flat-out adorabubble (a combination of adorable and lovable) or awesometastic (both ‘awesome’ and ‘fantastic’) and a perfectly legitimate pursuit for adultescents (an adult who continues to enjoy youth culture) everywhere.

Given a choice, I prefer the term ‘portmanteau’.  Unlike ‘English blend’, a portmanteau doesn’t sound like something you sip with a biscuit in front of an open fire so much as it does something you imbibe with your pipe and slippers immediately after having returned to harbour.  But either way, it’s still an insidious practice that’s ruining the English language.  Even if you possess an abilitude (ability and aptitude) for coming up with perverse combinations of words, enough is enough.

So how did it come to this?  As is so often the case, Beyonce may well be to blame. That’s because there are few English blends more startling than the word ‘bootylicious’.  When the band ‘Destiny’s Child’ released their single ‘Bootylicious’ in 2001 it was greeted by both universal acclaim and outright confusion.  The term – an English blend of the words ‘booty’ and ‘delicious’ (and meaning callipygous and voluptuous) prompted a general scratching of heads not seen since Billy Ray Cyrus referred to his ‘Achy Breaky Heart’.  More than anything, it declared to world that it was open slather on the English language.

In 2004, ‘bootylicious’ was elevated to dictionary status, with the folks over at Oxford giving it the stamp of approval.  But although the term was undoubtedly popularized by Destiny’s Child, it was, in fact, rapper Snoop Dogg who first used the term in 1992 on Dr Dre’s ‘The Chronic’ album.  Snoop – no stranger to any kind of English blend – clearly has a lot to answer for.

But wait.  Now that I think about it, things went south well before Calvin Broadus (‘Snoop Dogg’ was not the name his mother gave him) first stepped up to the microphone.  Consider, if you will, the term ‘brunch’ – a union of two totally respectable words, designed to dud you out of an entire meal.  Much like an unwanted backpacker, it snuck into the language sometime in the 1980s and has since refused to leave.  Let me be clear, there is no such thing as ‘brunch’ – it’s just a late breakfast.  Having crossed a ‘brunch’ too far, it has since been a case of anything goes.

So maybe it’s not all Beyonce’s or even Snoop Dogg’s fault after all.  In fact, now that I think about it, perhaps the problem existed even before the invention of ‘brunch’.  Upon further reflection, I think the buck stops with Lewis Carroll.  That’s right, Lewis Carroll, writer of classics such as ‘Alice in Wonderland’.  His poem ‘Jabberwocky’ may well be the thing that first pushed the handcart in hell’s general direction.  Granted, it doesn’t refer to brunch and there’s certainly no mention of anyone being bootylicious, but it does inflict the term ‘frabjous’ (in which the words fair, fabulous and joyous collide) on an unsuspecting public.  Had Lewis Carroll known that, one hundred and forty years later, this kind of license with the language would inspire the people over at Kentucky Fried Chicken to bang on about ‘the goodification’ – a term that leaves me feeling as if I want to punch Colonel Sanders – he might have had second thoughts. 

So here we are – more than a century since Lewis Carroll got the ball rolling and several decades after ‘brunch’ ruined our appetites; and the entire English language has unravelled in a truly craptacular fashion.  Manglish is upon us and there’s no stopping it.  The whole sorry catastrophe leaves me feeling downright confuzzled.  In fact, it’s all too much.  Even as I write I can feel the hotwires of my mind beginning to overheat.  Best to take a deep, deep breath and do what I always do when overload is upon me – simply ask: ‘what would Snoop Dogg do in this situation?’  The answer, I feel, is clear.  He would, without doubt, chillax.

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