It begins with this slogan/image, passed on to me on Facebook by Ruth Lawrence:
Though the reference of the term Alpacalypse isn’t clear here (in 18 days?), the term is very satisfying phonologically, whether seen as a portmanteau of alpaca and Apocalypse or as the suffixing of the libfix -alypse ‘(terminal) disaster’ (historically from Apocalypse) to alpaca ‘species of camelid’; Apocalypse and alpacalypse are very close indeed.
Expressions associated with the Apocalypse include sign(s) of the Apocalypse and War, Famine, Pestilence, and Death, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (both connected to the text of Revelation); the movie title Apocalypse Now (1979); and the more recent invention Zombie Apocalypse (“The “zombie apocalypse” concept, in which the civilized world is brought low by a global zombie infestation, has become a staple of modern popular art” (link)); some have predicted that the Apocalypse is upon us in 2012; and alpacas are closely associated (in the real world) with llamas. These ingredients have been mixed to create a number of further slogans and images, among them:
Uh. Oh. The llamas are gathering. The first sign of the Alpacalyse.
We will munch on your soul.
Alpacalypse. Yup … We are all going to die.
The end is near. The Alpacalypse is coming.
Alpacalypse. Becuz speling is hard on teh internets. [lolcat style]
The Four Llamas of the Alpacalypse.
Alpacalypse Now. The Horror… The Horror
Beavers are prepared for the coming Zombie Alpacalypse [on TheDailyBeaver.com]
Forget about the Zombie Apocalypse… You should be more concerned by the Alpacalypse.
The Alpacalypse is here!!!! Run for your lives!
Hi. I’ze Rama Llama Ding Dong… I’m heading up the Alpacalypse.
Alpacalypse – Dawn of the camelids
It’s not just e-llama-nation… It’s an alpacalypse! [with a pun on elimination]
[photo of one alpaca] This is the face of the Alpacalypse!
I’m prepared for the alpacalypse. Are ewe? [with a pun]
(Alpacas make appearances in other images of this sort, not involving the Apocalypse. For example:
Day 46: I have gained the alpacas’ trust. They still do not know I am a sheep.
It’s an alpaca, dumbass.
Mother fuckin alpaca. Pronking and shit. )
Now a few words about the taxonomic status of alpacas. They are camelids:
Camelids are members of the biological family Camelidae, the only living family in the suborder Tylopoda. Dromedaries, Bactrian camels, llamas, alpacas, vicuñas, and guanacos are in this group.
Camelids are even-toed ungulates: they are classified in the order Artiodactyla, along with pigs, hippopotamus, deer, giraffes, cattle, goats, antelope, and many others. (link)
An alpaca (Vicugna pacos) is a domesticated species of South American camelid. It resembles a small llama in appearance.
Alpacas are kept in herds that graze on the level heights of the Andes of southern Peru, northern Bolivia, Ecuador, and northern Chile at an altitude of 3,500 m (11,500 ft) to 5,000 m (16,000 ft) above sea level, throughout the year. Alpacas are considerably smaller than llamas, and unlike llamas, they were not bred to be beasts of burden, but were bred specifically for their fiber. Alpaca fiber is used for making knitted and woven items, similar to wool. These items include blankets, sweaters, hats, gloves, scarves, a wide variety of textiles and ponchos in South America, and sweaters, socks, coats and bedding in other parts of the world. The fiber comes in more than 52 natural colors as classified in Peru, 12 as classified in Australia and 16 as classified in the United States. (link)
A semantic point about fabric made from alpaca hair: metaphorical extension alert:
In the textile industry, “alpaca” primarily refers to the hair of Peruvian alpacas, but more broadly it refers to a style of fabric originally made from alpaca hair, but now often made from similar fibers, such as mohair, Icelandic sheep wool, or even high-quality English wool.
It occurred to me to wonder — I suppose this counts as wool-gathering — about /k/-final stems like alpac- that might combine with -alypse. I thought first of potentially racy stems: wank, whack, spank; there at least disasters were easily imaginable. Only wankalypse yielded (a few) examples, and then only in the ‘gratuitous time-wasting activity’ sense of wanking, not in the literal masturbatory sense:
I was able to contribute to Wankalypse Now, start sifting through my e-mail (though not on Yahoomort, damn its filthy eyeses), and catch up on my favorite… (link)
All this is only warm-up for Wankalypse with Harry Potter, starring an about-to-be released children’s book that makes many adults impressingly batshit. (link)
Otherwise, wankalypse, whackalypse, and spankalypse are open territory.
Then I thought of proper names like Sri Lanka and Casablanca: still unexplored lexical territory, until some specific disaster calls up a need for something like Sri Lankalypse or Casablancalypse. (Yes, I know, there’s no actual need for something like alpacalypse; it’s just that many people seem to find alpacas cute or silly, so they conflict entertainingly with the notion of the Apocalypse.)
Finally, I cast around for other common nouns that were almost as good candidates for combination with -alypse as alpaca. My best candidate seems to be maracas:
Maracas (… sometimes called rumba shakers) are a native instrument of Latin America. They are a kind of percussion instrument (idiophones), usually played in pairs, consisting of a dried calabash or gourd shell (cuia “koo-ya”) or coconut shell filled with seeds or dried beans. They may also be made of leather, wood, or plastic. (link)
Since they come in pairs and look like globes, maracas are easily seen as analogues of either women’s breasts or men’s testicles, hence the metaphorical extensions in Green’s Dictionary of Slang (vol. 2, p. 1530), somewhat compressed here:
maracas n. [? the musical instrument; i.e. one “plays” on them] 1 (US) the female breasts
1940 Pal Joey: A par of maracas that will haunt me in my dreams. 1961 Rubin, In the Life: Knockers, maracas, boobies. Let’s face it, Doc: I got a good shape. [etc.]
2 The testicles [appearance and rhy. sl.; = KNACKERS n.]. 1998 R. Puxley Fresh Rabbit.
(The rhyming slang depends on knackers — primarily British and primarily used for testicles — or knockers — primarily American and primarily used for breasts. The rhyme is fully successful only in non-rhotic varieties.)
No hits for maracalypse, though it’s entertaining to imagine the circumstances in which the word might be appropriate. (There is, however, a poster with the handle maracalypso — a nice portmanteau.)
Now, just what do those alpacas have in store for us?