Word for Wednesday: Escalator

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Our Word for Wednesday theme for July is portmanteau words.

portmanteau word is made up of two or more existing words that have been blended together. The term was coined by Lewis Carrol in his 1871 novel Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There.

A portmanteau is a type of suitcase which had two compartments and so Carroll used it as a metaphor for a term that made of two separate words merged together.

In the novel, the character Humpty Dumpty explains to Alice: “You see it’s like a portmanteau – there are two meanings packed up into one word.”

So far, we’ve looked at the words blog and brunch. Today’s word is escalator.

An escalator is a staircase made up of steps that move on a circulating belt. They are used to move people between floors in public spaces.

The word dates to 1900 and was originally the trade name for a moving staircase made by Otis Elevator Co. It is a portmanteau of the words  ‘escalade’ and ‘elevator’.

An 'escalade' is a military attack that involves using ladders to scale fortified walls. The word has been used in English since the 1590s.  It comes from the Latin ‘scandere’ meaning ‘to climb’ and entered English via Italian and French.

The word 'elevator' has been used in English to mean ‘raise a part of the body’ since the 1640s and to describe a ‘mechanical lift’ since 1787. The Latin word ‘elevator’ means ‘one who raises up’.


20 Jul 2022
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