Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Just add a suffix

Creating a new word can be as easy as adding a suffix to an existing word. People are doing this all the time, and some of their creations actually catch on. Here are some of the most common suffixes word creators like to play with:


When I was in Frankenmuth, Mich., last weekend I was not surprised that this lovely town that draws many tourists by celebrating its Bavarian heritage will be having an Octoberfest this fall, although inexplicably it is planned for mid-September, but it also plans a snowfest in January. I live in Ashland, Ohio, which every year around the Fourth of July hosts a balloonfest.

You get the idea. Communities used to have festivals, but now they have fests, often forming a new word in the process. It is a game anyone can play. If you are throwing a party for Melvin or Judy, just call it a Melvinfest or a Judyfest. You will have created, at least temporarily, a new word.

It doesn't even have to be a formal celebration. Words like gabfest and talkfest reflect the idea of celebration in more mundane activities.

I may have a napfest later today.


Ever since the Nicaraguan political movement called the Sandinistas became well known in the 1980s, people have been creating new words like fashionistas, opinionistas, Marxistas, Taoistas  and so forth. It is really just the Spanish form of the English suffix -ist, but it carries a somewhat negative political connotation.

I am a regular napperista.


This Italian suffix now, when added to English words, suggests members of an elite. Thus we hear literati, glitterati and, among bloggers, bloggerati.

I am a member of the napperati.


This suffix doesn't actually mean anything. It just happens to be the last syllable of the word marathon, a very long foot race. It has been used as a suffix, added to other words to suggest length or importance. Thus we now have telethon, danceathon, bikeathon, swimathon and any number of other creations.

With any luck, I might even have a napathon.

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