Libfixes

From Michael Quinion’s World Wide Words #674 (1/27/10):

AVATARD  A chorus of disagreement came from readers over this. All were sure it’s from “Avatar” + “retard”, as are “celebutard” and a few other slang terms, using “retard” in its current abusive sense of a mentally retarded person. Another term of similar origin, I am told, is “freetard”, which was supplied by several correspondents. Jeremy Ardley described it thus: “it’s an epithet used by those who pay for their software for those who choose to use free open-source software. The implication is that if you get it for free it ain’t worth diddly-squat and you’re mentally challenged if you choose to use it.” Others mentioned politically motivated insults of similar formation, such as “conservatard” (by coincidence, my newspaper last Sunday included the related term “Libtard”, though the initial
capital letter showed that it referred specifically to the British
Liberal Democrat party).

And then:

AFFIXES  Various comments on word endings last week and this have persuaded me to add three entries to my site about the building blocks of English: the three are “-tard“, “-flation” and “-naut“.

Ah, here’s a topic that combines three of my interests: playful word formation, portmanteau words, and the “liberation” of parts of words (like the three Quinion just listed), to yield word-forming elements that are semantically like the elements of compounds but are affix-like in that they are typically bound.

“Playful word formation” — sometimes called “expressive word formation”, but neither label is entirely satisfactory — picks out patterns of word formation that have a playful or show-offy character to them; instances of these patterns often strike people as innovations and as decidedly informal. Some playful examples use plain ordinary affixes (-ness and -ity, for instance, as here), but others are portmanteaus (some playful portmanteaus here), and others have the liberated elements that Quinion calls “combining forms” (but also classifies as prefixes or suffixes on the basis of their position within words), for instance -licious and its variants (which was last discussed on Language Log here, with links to earlier postings).

Another word on the liberated elements. Quinion’s “combining forms” include both liberated elements and elements from complex learnèd forms, as in thermometer. It would be nice to have a term for the liberated elements that is both more memorable than “combining forms” and also signals the origin of these elements in the reanalysis of existing words (whether the source words are ordinary words, as with -tacular, or portmanteaus, as with -dar). I suggest libfix, which can be labeled a prelibfix (prefixal) or a postlibfix (suffixal) when its position within the word is especially relevant.

I have considerable files on playful word formation, portmanteaus, and libfixes, but have posted inventories only for the second (here and here). The other two are on my to-do list, but right now I have all these teaching things to attend to.

16 Responses to “Libfixes”

  1. One more -tard « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    [...] Arnold Zwicky's Blog A blog mostly about language « Libfixes [...]

  2. arnoldzwicky Says:

    Jeff Shaumeyer writes with another -tard sighting:

    A man is judged by the company he keeps, or so goes the old adage. It speaks volumes an entire frickin’ library that President Fierce Advocate for Gay & Lesbian Rights is intent on breaking fast with a bunch of unscrupulous theotards and their adulterous, Republican puppets at the National Prayer Breakfast. (link)

  3. Postings on playful word formation « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    [...] 1/23/10: Libfixes (link) -tard, -flation, -naut and [...]

  4. -orama-orama « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    [...] posting gives a wonderful quote from Balzac’s Le père Goriot (1834-35) about play with the libfix -orama. Etherton’s summary: the characters come up with santérama, froitorama, soupeaurama [...]

  5. -pocalypse « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    [...] nevertheless) involving the second part of apocalypse and words with a suffix-like element (a libfix) -pocalypse, like the -gate of coinings for the names of scandals, which is no longer (necessarily) [...]

  6. Libfix pun, or something « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    [...] By arnoldzwicky A weekend cartoon from Hilary Price, with a pun on thong and the thon part of the libfix [...]

  7. Data points: libfixes 1/17/11 « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    [...] ana, abstracting the -ana from the various titles, not only liberating the suffix, but elevating it to a lexical item on its own, like ology and ism, as in Michael Quinion’s [...]

  8. -tards « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    [...] hate mail he gets along these lines. My main interest here is in the suffix — I’d say libfix — -tard, but first a few words about gadget hate [...]

  9. Libfix fun: -cation « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    [...] with female friends’, following on the widely reported mancation, both of these suggesting a new libfix that started with straightforward portmanteaus (staycation and daycation) involving [...]

  10. -sauruses « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    [...] “Phallicity: the penisaurus” (here), for example. The element -saurus has then become a libfix, available for combining with any number of first [...]

  11. Inventory of libfix postings « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    [...] POST –tard AZBlog, 1/23/10: Libfixes (link): refers to World Wide Words #674, 1/23/10, on -tard, -naut, [...]

  12. This Week’s Language Blog Roundup | Wordnik ~ all the words Says:

    [...] for you to forget).  In “Whatpocalypse Now?” Mark Liberman at Language Log talks about libfixes, in this case sportspocalypse.  Arnold Zwicky, coiner of the libfix term, has an extensive [...]

  13. Playing with morphology « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    [...] brings us to the playful reptard, with the libfix -tard (postings on it here and [...]

  14. ‘Ledgebag’ is totes amaze « Sentence first Says:

    [...] sometimes takes the -bag suffix — or perhaps it’s what Arnold Zwicky calls a libfix — to become ledgebag, a popular Irish English slang term that means the same as legend. Indeed, [...]

  15. Zmanteaus « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    [...] inventory of my language play using -manteau (from portmanteau) as a libfix. Most of them have a first element that’s the first element in the portmanteaus (as in my [...]

  16. Blogtini | Joseph Pentangelo Says:

    […] QP1 is about libfixation, a term coined by Arnold Zwicky for the process by which a word-chunk that frequently appears in […]

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