In advance of the recent blizzard which struck the East Coast of the U.S., many media outlets were trying to coin a catchy name to describe the event (mainly to hashtag it on social media, let’s be honest).
What struck me was that no one name really caught on — people were using repeats from previous years, like Snowmageddon and Snowpocalypse; Slate tried desperately to make “David Snowie” work; The Weather Channel labeled it “Jonas”; and there was a lot of defaulting to “blizzard2016.”
Putting parts of two words together to create something new is called a portmanteau, from the French word for “suitcase”; it's also known as a name smush or a ship name. The modern, culturally relevant version started with celebrity pairings (Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez were the original Bennifer) and has exploded from there, especially names for fictional "ships" (romantic relationships which are discussed or imagined for TV or movie characters) and any brouhaha which can be combined with "-gate" (from the Watergate Hotel, the scene of a break-in which started the scandal which toppled U.S. President Nixon). No single portmanteau for this storm became popular, which makes me wonder if it was because no one could figure out a good new one.
What are the criteria for a good portmanteau? What aspects should you think about when trying to coin such a term? What makes "Snowmaggedon" and "Brangelina" and "Johnlock" work but not "BeyonZ"?