-orama-orama

Mark Etherton’s comment on Geoff Pullum’s “Isms, gasms, etc.” 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 (to which Madame Vauquer says “Pardonnez−moi, monsieur, c’est une soupe aux choux”), Goriorama [based on Goriot, of course], cornorama, monsieur le marquis de Rastignacorama, patriarchalorama, bouteillorama, sexorama, A la portorama, la comtesse de Restaurama and mortorama.

It all started with the Panorama, invented in 1787 and first publicly displayed in 1788-89. The name was coined from Ancient Greek elements pan- and -orama. Then later came another invention, the Diorama, first exhibited in 1823, again based on Greek components. (Both names were quickly lower-cased.) By 1834, the residents of the fictional Maison Vauquer had extracted the element -orama and were attaching it to all sorts of first elements.

The Anglophone world followed a similar path, with panorama and diorama serving as models for other inventions (from the OED), at first with Greek-based initial elements: in particular, cosmorama (1823) and georama (1847). Then in the 20th century there was another wave of -orama-ism. Here are some inventions (from the OED and Michael Quinion) from the 20th-century fashion (which continues into the 21st century):

Futurama (1938), Cinerama (1951), audiorama (1954), striporama (1954), ugly-o-rama (1973), swaporama (1977), donutorama (1992)

plus, from Quinion (undated) but not in the OED: sensorama, Scout-O-Rama, odourama, smellorama. Then there’s the 21st-century diorama-orama I reported on here, and the predictable Obamarama, reported by a commenter on that posting.

As I usually say in these circumstances, no doubt there are many more.

5 Responses to “-orama-orama”

  1. empty Says:

    In one of the long-running daytime soap operas there was a beauty parlor felicitously called the Glamorama — this must go back to the 1970s at least.

  2. ShadowFox Says:

    If I recall correctly, there was a “Feel-o-rama” feature in Kentucky Fried Movie–or was it Amazon Women on the Moon?

    But, it seems, there are divergent meanings that have developed over time, almost as if “-orama” has become a snowclonelet. A local supermarket has an annual week-long sale on grapes when they bring in 12 different varieties instead of the usual five or six (including organic). The weekly circular, then, proclaims in giant letters “Grape-o-rama!” A fly-by-night furniture outlet that pops up in random retail spaces for short periods of time sometimes tags itself “Mattress-o-rama”. Brooklyn Botanical Gardens annual sale is referred to as Plant-o-Rama. There is seems to be an implication with these that not only is there a wide selection, but that the choices are also cheap. There is an additional implication about the uniqueness of the event. The latter can dominate the meaning entirely–with no implications concerning price. For example, the Little Green Footballs blog has occasional “linkoramas” although it’s not even clear how these are different from normal blog practice.

    A discount party and art&craft supplies store in the Boston area that has long gone out of business used to be called Paperama–a slight variation on the theme. (A Wiki article preserves the name for posterity.) There is also a paper-&-bookbindng blog and a band of the same name. A Boston furniture store is called Sleep-A-rama–while a similar Florida outfit, now bankrupt, was called Sleep-o-rama. A Manhattan off-beat office furniture store is called Wood-orama.

    JC Penney’s sells a Sketch o’rama desk (might be a whole line of furniture items). There is a Scratch-o-rama cat mat. These have a different sort of implication from -o/a-rama and variants. They also suggest a variety of options–even if it is not clear what these options entail–but for a different purpose. And there is no implication about price.

    Then there is a reverse case as well. The Illini Mattress Company is described on Yelp as having all sorts of mattresses “from cheap-o-rama to 3000 Tempurpedic”. This is not the sole appearance of “cheap-o-rama” in this sense, but I’m not convinced this can extend to anything else (ok, perhaps, “crap-o-rama”). In this case, variety/choice is deemphasized and, instead, the term highlights low price and the corresponding shoddy quality.

    But these are all commercial or media uses (in another example, successive resignations by aides to SF mayor Gavin Newsom had been termed by an SF blog “Resign-O-Rama”). But things such as Futurama and Cinerama had entirely different contexts, unrelated to retail of any kind and, perhaps, being somewhat closer to the original. But, in a self-parody, one of the video releases of Futurama (Matt Groenig’s cartoon show, not something from the 1930s), the disc was titled Futurama-O-Rama. There used to be an arcade game machine called Rockin’ Bowl-O-rama.

    Name X and there is an -orama attached to it somewhere. Even before I started this list, I did a quick search on what seemed to be a reasonable term that someone would try to coin–Douchbagorama. Sure enough, it produced 26 ghits, some with variant spelling. There is no end to this silliness. But this does not mean that “Douchebagorama” is somehow semantically related to “grape-o-rama” or “paperama”. And no one would try to cross the semantic boundaries either. So what is it about all these things that allows them to be classified–with some regularity–into different semantic niches? Aside from “cheaporama” and “crap-o-rama”, I can’t find other uses in the same category. Someone used “thrift-o-rama” but had an entirely different meaning attached. So it’s not the -orama part that attaches this significance (there is no significant difference between “cheaporama” and “cheap-o” and “crap”). But in the super-sale category (the first one mentioned), it is clear that it is the -orama part that changes the category from some retail product to the specific one outlined above.

  3. arnoldzwicky Says:

    To ShadowFox (who I know under another name): wonderful examples, which indicate that -((o)r)ama (to give it its full name) is a *playful* libfix, with great variability in its use, conveying magnitude, multitude, commercial offering, and much more.

  4. Data points: playful libfixes 11/18/10 « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] pointed to earlier postings (with comments) on this blog, here and here, noting the profusion of attested -((o)r)ama words, beyond anything the OED could cope with, though […]

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

    […] AZBlog, 2/15/10: orama-orama (link) […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: