WOrds of the Year

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Jan 10 16:34:28 UTC 2000

Allan Metcalf writes:

>Beth asks:
>>>A colleague here asked about the -gate suffix. Actually, what she cried out
>"But what about the suffix of the decade?"
>I think I remember a discussion, both of -gate, the suffix, and having a
>suffix of
>SOME TIME UNIT. Did these occur?<<
>1996 WOTY was mom as in soccer mom, if you want to count that.
>1998 Brand New was the suffix -agra or -gra, denoting a substance prompting
>men to perform unusually, as in "directra" that causes men to ask for
>1997 Most Useful was -[r]azzi, an aggressive pursuer.
>_America in So Many Words_ has "Watergate" the Barnhart & Metcalf word for
>1972, with discussion of its continuing significance because of the "-gate"
>ADS has had several _pre_fixes as WOTY: 1998 e- as in e-mail, e-commerce;
>1994 cyber; 1991 mother of all --, if you want to count that.
>In the voting this year, the only nominee that was a suffix was "__ fatigue"
>as in "millennium fatigue" as Most Useful, and it got zero votes. No suffix
>nominees for Words of the Decade, Century, or Millennium.

Not to be picky (well, actually, precisely to be picky), but I'd argue that
neither -mom nor -fatigue are suffixes.  They are, rather, nominal heads of
compound nouns.  -(r)azzi, -gate, and -(a)gra are suffixes.  (One piece of
evidence is the possibility of interruption, e.g. "Clinton and Gore
fatigue", "soccer and softball moms", which can't be applied to true
suffixes, besides which there's the free vs. bound issue.)


More information about the Ads-l mailing list