Hasta la vista, -ista!

The end of one year and the beginning of the next provides an occasion for people to write about their faves and their hates. It’s an odd custom, but there it is. Mixed in with reviews of movies, books, and music, you can find a lot of peeving about language.

And here’s a hybrid, with peeving about fashion trends mixed in with peeving about language: a photo feature in the Image section of the L.A. Times on “Fashion terms and trends to retire with 2009”, among them formations in -ista:

While we’re tackling tired terminology, how about a permanent moratorium on any more cute “-istas”? The suffix that refuses to die lumbers on like a zombie in the zeitgeist. Once there were only baristas, Sandanistas and fashionistas, but the ranks have since swelled to include recessionistas, frugalistas, bargainistas and even a “foodinista.” (OK, we actually like the last one, it’s the title of a blog that muses on food and fashion. It’s a perfect fit there, but that’s as far as we’ll go.) Instead, going forward (and let’s retire “going forward” while we’re at, shall we?), we’d like to suggest appending the more professional-sounding: “ist.” Fashionists, frugalists and bargainists sound like folks we’d want on our team in 2010.

The peeve is illustrated with a photo of Sacha Baron Cohen as “supposed fashionista Brüno”:

(Hat tip to Victor Steinbok.)

(I doubt that many people who use fashionista and the like would accept the -ist versions as replacements.)

Michael Quinion did a World Wide Words item on the word in 2000 (March 4), beginning:

This is a gently sarcastic term for a person who is an enthusiast for fashion. It covers not only the dedicated followers of fashion who wear the clothes, but also those who write about them. And it can refer to those who design, make, model and publicise clothes, and the fashion buyers whose decisions determine the success of a collection.

I’m told by researchers at the Oxford English Dictionary that it goes back to 1993, to a book by Stephen Fried entitled Thing of Beauty: the Tragedy of Supermodel Gia. The word began to become more widely popular from about 1998 onwards, has just started to appear in dictionaries, and looks set to become a permanent part of the language.

The OED then composed a draft entry (of September 2002) for the word, marking it as colloquial (and oiginally North American) and noting that it is “sometimes depreciative“. The definition there:

A person employed in the creation or promotion of high fashion, as a designer, photographer, model, fashion writer, etc. Also: a devotee of the fashion industry; a wearer of high-fashion clothing.

(with cites beginning with the 1993 Fried quote).

OED2 (1989) does have a fashionist entry, with the definition:

A follower of the fashions; one who conforms to the prevailing style of dress; a fashion-monger.

and cites from 1616 through 1850 (but nothing more recent than that).

7 Responses to “Hasta la vista, -ista!”

  1. levimontgomery Says:

    It’s interesting that no mention is made of what I always thought was the relevant characteristic of a fashionista (although perhaps I’m inferring things that were never implied): that a fashionista not only follows fashion trends, but attempts to enforce them through a regime of public ridicule, acrimony, etc.

    Did I miss something?

  2. arnoldzwicky Says:

    To levimontgomery: to judge from comments in the Urban Dictionary (I know, I know), there are people who agree with you, but there seem to be many people who don’t see attempted enforcement as part of the fashionista package.

  3. levimontgomery Says:

    Well, then, I suppose “fashionist” will do nicely. I always thought there was a more direct tie to the supposed link between the methods of the Sandanistas and the fashionistas.

    And that’s a truly disturbing picture, BTW. 🙂


  4. mollymooly Says:

    The productivity of “-ist” in the required sense has been impaired by the suffix’s newer ‘prejudiced’ sense derived from “racist”.

  5. Stan Says:

    A few months ago, the word frugalista was trademarked. Maybe that will eventually reduce its usage…

  6. Ben Hemmens Says:

    the -ista ending that stays the same for males and females is an Italian thing.

  7. Fresh -istas « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] last looked at the -ista suffix on this blog in 2010, in “Hasta la vista, -ista”, mostly about fashionista ‘enthusiast for […]

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