A panderthon

The cover of the June 2015 Funny Times, by Matt Wuerker:

What caught my eye was panderthon, (roughly) ‘an interminable occasion of pandering’, with the libfix -(a)thon. The word is especially associated with political pandering, as here.

The libfix is covered on Michael Quinion’s Affixes site:

-athon After a vowel -thon. An event long in duration, usually for fund-raising purposes. [The last part of marathon, from Marathōn in Greece, the scene of a victory over the Persians in 490 BC.]

From the 1930s onwards, the ending of marathon was borrowed, originally in the US, to form words relating to some charitable activity. The first examples were walkathon, a long-distance walk organized as a fund-raising event, and radiothon, a prolonged radio broadcast by a person or group, similarly to raise money. Many examples have been created since, of which telethon, a long television programme to raise money for charity, has gone furthest towards general acceptance. Others are operathon, a marathon performance of opera; preachathon, an extended sermon; and swimathon, a sponsored swimming event. Some examples are facetious terms indicating an unreasonably extended happening, such as boreathon, an interminable occasion; plugathon, an extended advertisement for a product or person; and excuseathon, an over-extended apology for some mishap.

Note on the phonology. From Quinion’s entry, you would expect panderathon rather than panderthon, since pander ends in a consonant. That suggests that the relevant factor is not consonant vs. vowel, but accent or not on the preceding syllable: pander ends in an unaccented syllable. A test case: consider an interminable occasion of telling lies, a festival of lying; this would be a lieathon (-athon after an accented syllable), not a liethon, even though lie ends in a vowel.

But things are more complicated than that. Panderthon is reasonably well attested; two further examples:

The Rude Pundit: Random Observations on Last Night’s Republican Panderthon (link)

Iowa Panderthon Hits Homestretch (link)

But so is panderathon; two examples:

But Obama gets a bit better, even in the desultory context of an ongoing panderathon (link)

It looks like it’s going to be a knockdown, drag-out fight to the end between these two desperate contenders, to see who can secure the coveted conservative title of Wingnut Crown Price in the great Panderathon of 2006. (link)

So there’s variation. And in fact in this case –athon hugely outnumbers –thon (26,600 raw ghits for panderathon to 1,070 for panderthon). Other cases go the other way: comicthon with 1,460 raw ghits to comicathon with with 423.

As I understand the situation, when the preceding syllable is accented, the libfix is –athon; when it’s unaccented and ends in a vowel, the libfix is –thon (telethon, not teleathon); when it’s unaccented and ends in a consonant, there is variation.

Matt Wuerker. On the cartoonist, from Wikipedia:

Matt Wuerker is a political cartoonist for and founding staff member of Politico and winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning.

… He has published two collections of cartoons, Standing Tall in Deep Doo Doo, A Cartoon Chronicle of the Bush Quayle Years (Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1991) and Meanwhile in Other News… A Graphic Look at Politics in the Empire of Money, Sex and Scandal (Common Courage Press, 1998). He illustrated the book The Madness of King George (Common Courage Press, 2003) by Michael K. Smith.

One previous Wuerker cartoon on this blog.

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