Knee-mail?“Portmanteau” always sounded to me a like a fancy place to dock your Parisian dinghy (this is where you sneeze “Euphemism!” and I say “Gesundteit.”). It’s a sly word coined by Lewis Carroll, of Alice in Wonderland fame, which apparently refers to “two meanings packed into one word” a la the French suitcase comprised of two conjoined compartments from which it borrows its name. Not to continue the William Safire act – but to make portmanteau plural, you add an “x” to the end, which makes it all the cooler in my book (possible title: “Portmanteaux: The Daedalus Howell Reader – Abridged.”

I embarked on this train of thought when strolling up First Street East and noticed a a sign on the lawn of a church that read “God answers knee-mail.” I thought ‘Hmm, there’s got to be a word to describe a pun predicated on two separate words’ – that’s if e-mail (once upon a time “electronic mail,” I suppose) even qualifies as two separate words. I’ve noted similar variations before: I once overheard a dog-owner comment that their hydrant-sniffing pet was checking its “pee-mail.” Whatever. Knee-mail may or may not qualify as a portmanteau, but then depending on who your God is, knee-mail also may or may not be a reference to prayer. Gesundteit.

Another thing: Soccer moms — send your Sonoma Valley Youth Soccer Association mail to Box 658, Sonoma, CA 95476 — not Box 653, which is where I collect your fan mail, prayers, etc.