Reported yesterday on ADS-L by Steve Kleinedler (of the American Heritage Dictionary), the portmanteau aquapocalypse, referring to the disastrous water main break in the Boston area (just repaired) that had millions of people boiling their drinking water. Steve remarks that it’s lots of fun to say.

Echoes of snowpocalypse (among the portmansnow words I reported on here and here; discussion by Jan Freeman here; and by many others).

I asked Steve if he had other -pocalypse words, but he had only these two in his files so far, though he suggested that Grant Barrett might have more. And indeed, Grant has so far picked up two for his Double-Tongued Dictionary site: carpocalypse (based on car, not carp), here; and shopocalypse, here.

And he notes that a Google search with word-initial wildcarding — here — pulls up a whole lot more playful -pocalypse words, among them: E-Pocalypse (EP by Welsh pop punk band Kids in Glass Houses), text-pocalypse (that awful txtng), yo-pocalypse (frozen yoghurt), Taco-pocalypse (from Taco Bell), O-pocalypse (reaction brought on by Obama’s policies), pork-pocalypse (swine flu), eco-pocalypse, e-pocalypse (environment). Some of these maintain some reference to, or at least connotation of, actual or predicted distaster, but in others, what’s conveyed by -pocalypse is some kind of extravangance.

These coinings are beginning to straddle the line between portmanteaus (playful, to be sure, but portmanteaus 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) connected to the original Watergate.

7 Responses to “-pocalypse”

  1. Nelson Minar Says:

    The Twitter developer community is currently concerned about the coming oauthocalypse (or oauthpocalypse), when all third party Twitter applications will be required to use OAuth for authentication. I first saw the term a couple weeks ago and it seemed immediately natural. It’s a real concern for developers, but characterizing it as “apocalypse” implies a bit of sarcasm about the real magnitude of the change.


  2. Fritinancy Says:

    Only slightly off topic: The cover of the April 29 issue of The Economist features this headline about the Greek debt crisis: “Acropolis Now.”

  3. Eva Says:

    I’d like to submit “crunkocalypse”, of which “crunk” is already a portmanteau of “crazy” and “drunk”.

  4. Stan Says:

    That Google search turns up a veritable portmantopocalypse of playful formations. As well as the examples you mention, the first page alone includes Art(funding)pocalypse, Mime-pocalypse, Ninja-pocalypse and the intriguing Push-Notification-Pocalypse. Some run off the tongue much more easily than others.

    [(amz) Just a note to say that I never proposed to be giving a comprehensive list of –pocalypse words, nor would I ever undertake to do such a thing. There’s a whole big boatload of them, and more are presumably being invented every day.]

    Regarding portmantopocalypse: at first I typed portmanteaupocalypse but it looked very ungainly, and I remembered Fowler’s horror of the barbarous bureaucracy. A linking -o- seems better, on balance, though portmantaganza might better reflect the non-threatening nature of the fad.

  5. arnoldzwicky Says:

    A note on the accent pattern of novel words in -(p)ocalypse: This element is accented on its first syllable, and indeed that syllable has the primary accent for the entire word. The first element of the whole word has a secondary accent, as in snowpocalypse and aquapocalypse; this pattern contrasts with the pattern of apocalypse itself, which has an unaccented first syllable. Compare words in –opolis ‘city’: in inherited words that historically have this second element (Acropolis, metropolis, necropolis), the first element is unaccented, but invented words in –opolis have synchronically recognizable (and clearly meaningful) first elements, so that these are accented as well (but secondarily), as in Porkopolis ‘Cincinnati’.

    In any case, when the first element of an invented word is monosyllabic, the word has two adjacent accented syllables — a “stress clash” that’s somewhat disfavored in English, though it’s entirely acceptable in many circumstances. When the first element of an invented word has two syllables, the second of these is usually unaccented, so that the whole word then has the more pleasing “alternating stress” pattern. That’s one of the things that makes aquapocalypse (and Taco-pocalypse and eco-pocalypse) so satisfying. (These three also have a nice pattern of alternating voiceless stops: /k … p … k/, with the /k/ of –pocalypse anticipated in the first element.)

    Steve Kleinedler now notes a sighting of the wonderful pornopocalypse, with alternating stress plus /p … p … k/.

  6. levimontgomery Says:

    In the game “Borderlands,” available for various platforms, there are creatures called “skags.” These are among the bad guys; kill them or die.

    There are also “challenges,” in which you are awarded points for various things, mostly not very related to actual game play.

    Well, kill enough skags, and you are declared to be “the skagpocalypse.”

  7. Chris Says:

    Apocalypse gets portmanteaued from the other end in the name of one of Discordianism’s scriptures, the “Book of the Apocalypso”.

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