January 16, 2020
My monthly column at Macmillan Dictionary Blog continues this year. Here are the most recent three posts.
In Catfishing, blackfishing, sadfishing: the spread of a new libfix, I report on -fishing, which has been quite productive since originating in catfishing about a decade ago:
Catfishing is ‘tricking someone into having an online relationship by adopting a fake identity’. It comes from a 2010 documentary film named Catfish. The word quickly became popular online – it’s still making headlines – and soon gave rise to other -fishing terms. . . . Libfix is Arnold Zwicky’s term for a certain type of combining form – a bit like an affix, but narrower in meaning and relatively liberated.
Blackfishing and sadfishing are among the more prominent spin-off terms, but many others have been coined by analogy, and ‘all retain the idea of hiding or feigning one’s ethnicity or physical appearance’.
Criticizing -ize and -ise explores this suffix, a common source of new verbs in English. After tackling the idea that such neologisms should be minimized (e.g., Garner says they are ‘usually ungainly and often superfluous’), I consider the vexed question of spelling:
The –ise suffix comes from French, –ize from the earlier Greek. Popular lore says simplistically that -ize is American and -ise British. American English does mandate -ize, but it’s also standard in British usage and is the default for some publishers, including Macmillan and Oxford. British English also uses -ise, and it is house style for some newspapers and magazines, such as the Guardian and Economist. Englishes around the world use either.
Hello, vocative comma looks at the comma you often see between a greeting word and a name:
Some include a comma after the greeting word (Hi, Bob), while others skip it (Hi Bob). Sometimes it depends on the greeting word (Hi Kate but Hello, Kate), the register (Hello honey but Hello, Dr Smith), or things like mood and whim. So what are the rules for this erratic mark?
It’s called the vocative comma because these structures are in the vocative case. (The word has the same Latin root as vocation and shares its sense of ‘calling’.) But the vocative comma is used in many other types of situation, as the post goes on to show.
6 Comments | grammar, language, morphology, punctuation, spelling, usage, words, writing | Tagged: affixes, commas, grammar, greetings, language, libfixes, Macmillan Dictionary Blog, morphology, neologisms, punctuation, spelling, suffixes, usage, vocative comma, words, writing | Permalink
Posted by Stan Carey
August 26, 2015
I have a couple of new posts up at Macmillan Dictionary Blog.
It’s a libfix-aganza! looks at those productive word-bits dubbed libfixes by linguist Arnold Zwicky – like –gate, –splain(ing), and –pocalypse. My post provides an overview of the phenomenon and a small feast of examples:
There’s –iversary to mark an anniversary of some kind (blogiversary, hashtagiversary, monthiversary), –kini for variations on the bikini (face-kini, mankini, nun-kini), –preneur for different types of enterprising person (foodpreneur, mumpreneur, solopreneur), –tacular to refer to something impressive in a particular way (cat-tacular, craptacular, spooktacular), likewise –tastic (awesometastic, foodtastic, quintastic), and –zilla, ‘connoting size, significance, awesomeness, or fearsomeness’, as linguist Arnold Zwicky puts it (bridezilla, hogzilla, shopzilla).
All of these combining forms are what Zwicky calls libfixes, a term he coined in 2010, because they are liberated parts of words or portmanteaus but ‘are affix-like in that they are typically bound’. . . . Libfixes behave essentially like affixes but tend to be more semantically specified than, say, de- or –ation or –ible.
Bandying the word ‘bandy’ about considers the word bandy: the various meanings it has gained and the many ways we’ve used it over the centuries.
Funnily enough, Charles Dickens used the word to mean ‘too many bands’ in a letter where he called Dover ‘Not quite a place to my taste, being too Bandy (I mean musical – no reference to its legs).’ . . .
Many of the early, interrelated senses of the word have to do with throwing something aside, or to and fro, or tossing it about. It may be something physical, such as a ball in sport, or more figurative, like words and ideas. If you picture a crowd watching a tennis game you can see why the physical reference was suitable for extension to arguments and other back-and-forth verbal exchanges.
All my posts for Macmillan Dictionary on assorted language-related topics can be read here.
5 Comments | language, linguistics, morphology, semantics, words | Tagged: affixation, bandy, etymology, language, language change, libfixes, Macmillan Dictionary Blog, morphology, neologisms, words | Permalink
Posted by Stan Carey