Grammar Guy

Don’t forget your shacket

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It’s that time of year: is it spring yet? Or is it summer? Wait, is it going to get cold again? What? There’s snow in the forecast this week? Maypril in Central Indiana is like a box of chocolates, assuming that box of chocolates was insane and had a personal vendetta against you and your garden.

Enter the shacket. While in New England, a shacket is another name for a yellowjacket or hornet, I’m not talking about flying insects with miniature needles on their butts. No, I’m talking about a piece of clothing that is the hybrid of a shirt and a jacket. It’s a shacket. Picture a thick, slightly oversized flannel shirt for which retailers can charge $130 and you’ll get a good idea of what the shacket is all about.

Is it too cold to go out with just your regular shirt on? Grab a shacket. Is it too warm for your hoodie? Shacket time. In case you’re not following the right Instagram influencers, just know that the shacket is blowing up everyone’s feeds, stories and reels these days. Yes, this year the shacket is just the clothing item that will get you through this tricky time of the season when Mother Nature decides to hit you with a late frost around the time you’re scheduling your Memorial Day plans.

What kind of word is “shacket”? If this were the year 2010, we’d call it a “mash-up,” but “Glee” is not on the air anymore. First of all, “shacket” is a neologism, which is a fancy way of saying “a newly coined word.” After thorough internet research, I couldn’t find the origin of “shacket” as an article of clothing, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the poetic product description writers over at the J. Peterman catalog came up with the term. If anyone out there reading this has a connection to the person who hires people to write for the J. Peterman catalog, let them know I want to work with them.

More specifically, “shacket” is a type of “word blend” or “portmanteau.” Believe it or not, both of these terms mean the same thing. Use “portmanteau” if you’re trying to impress a group of ascot-wearing Harvard grads playing a round of weekend yacht polo in the Hamptons; use “word blend” if you don’t want to have to explain what “portmanteau” means.

Whether you call them “word blends” or “portmanteaus,” this type of word is everywhere. From “jorts” (jeans + shorts) to “turducken” (turkey + duck + chicken) the novelty of newly-coined word blends — especially in the case of the shacket — makes for a great hashtag that will make all your Instagram frenemies green with envy.

 

Curtis Honeycutt is a syndicated humor columnist and treasurer of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. He is the author of Good Grammar is the Life of the Party: Tips for a Wildly Successful Life. Find more at curtishoneycutt.com.

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