Fresh -istas

ADS-L discussion has recently taken up two recent formations in -ista: normalista on the tv show Veep and structuralista in Paul Krugman’s NYT column today. Both have the derogatory tone of English innovations with this suffix.

On Veep:

“Come on,” Selina [the vice-president of the United States] says in Episode 2, “let’s go somewhere, let’s meet the public!”

“You want to normalize it?” asks Mike (Matt Walsh), her director of communications.

“Yes, exactly, I want to meet some regular normals! Where are we going to find them?”

Mike exults: “Photo op with the normals and the normalistas!” (link)

That’s normalista ‘someone sympathetic to normals’ — normal people, rather than professional politicians — meant dismissively.

And Krugman:

So what’s with the obsessive push to declare our problems “structural”? And, yes, I mean obsessive. Economists have been debating this issue for several years, and the structuralistas won’t take no for an answer, no matter how much contrary evidence is presented.

… Of course, structuralistas say they are not making excuses. They say that their real point is that we should focus not on quick fixes but on the long run — although it’s usually far from clear what, exactly, the long-run policy is supposed to be, other than the fact that it involves inflicting pain on workers and the poor. (link)

The structuralistas are structuralists, in the sense of economists who appeal to structural explanations for economic woes — but with a dismissive tone absent in structuralist.

Krugman has an affinity for the -ista suffix, as in his 7/30/10 column “Inflationistas and Deflationistas” (where the names of the two camps are treated the same morphologically):

On one side were people who said that deficits would drive interest rates way up, crowding out private investment, and that all that money printing would lead to high inflation. On the other were those who said that we’d entered a Japan-type liquidity trap, which meant that (a) there was a savings glut, so deficits would not crowd out private investment and interest rates would stay low (b) increases in the monetary base would just sit there, (c) the risk was deflation, not inflation.

And so far, the inflationistas have been completely wrong, the deflationistas completely right.

I last looked at the -ista suffix on this blog in 2010, in “Hasta la vista, -ista”, mostly about fashionista ‘enthusiast for fashion’ (which Michael Quinion described as being “gently sarcastic”) but also quoting a 2009 L.A. Times feature story complaining about -ista words:

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 -ist proposal is surely doomed.)

Historical background: there are two historical sources for -ista words: Italian occupation names like barista ‘a person whose job involves preparing and serving different types of coffee’ (NOAD2) and the Spanish counterpart to English -ist ‘supporter of a person or organization’. On the latter, Quinion’s affix site says:

The Spanish suffix is that language’s equivalent of English -ist. It became known in the latter part of the twentieth century through several Spanish terms for political groupings, especially Sandinista, a member of a left-wing Nicaraguan political organization, named after a similar group founded by Augusto César Sandino (1893–1934); Fidelista, an adherent of Fidel Castro in Cuba; and Peronista, a supporter of Juan Perôn in Argentina. (link)

But then, as Quinion says:

A small number of English colloquial terms have been created using it, always with derogatory implications: Blairista, a supporter of the British prime minister, Tony Blair; Guardianista, a reader of the Guardian newspaper or one whose opinions correspond to its liberal outlook; Portillista, a follower of or someone sympathetic to the views of the British Conservative politician Michael Portillo.

In fashionista, we see an extension of ‘enthusiast’ -ista to common-noun bases, and the beginning of the bleaching of the derogatory tone in these formations to something like mere playfulness, as in caffenista used by a coffee enthusiast of himself (here).

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