Ben's rando, Virginia's retronyms

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Oct 31 14:13:32 UTC 2010

At 8:28 AM -0400 10/31/10, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>Did I mention "convo" (conversation), heard a week or so ago? "To keep the
>convo going."
>This "-o" business has been going on in Australia more than here for at
>least fifty years.

But with the pejorative flavor of the ones mentioned below?  There
may be a more general process of truncation + -o as in "convo" that I
think is not the same as the human -o slurs involved in "rando" and
its "wino/wacko/weirdo/pscyho"-type sponsors.


>On Sat, Oct 30, 2010 at 11:57 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at>wrote:
>>  ---------------------- Information from the mail header
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>>  Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>  Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>>  Subject:      Ben's rando, Virginia's retronyms
>>  In his "On Language" column in this weekend's Times Sunday Magazine,
>>  Ben Z writes about student slang, citing the master (Connie Eble) and
>>  others, and discusses "rando" (for a sketchy random stranger).
>>  Something that strikes me about this form is that while looking
>>  superficially as though it's formed from truncating "random", "rando"
>>  is yet another derogatory -o label, as in "weirdo", "fatso", "wino",
>>  "psycho", and such.  I figure there must be a paper on these
>>  somewhere in American Speech but a quick web search instead pulled up
>>  this summary by Mikael Parkvall on Linguist List:
>>  (some interesting
>>  cross-linguistic observations therein)
>>  Two pages later, Virginia Heffernan's touching eulogy to the
>>  old-fashioned telephone is rife with retronyms, from the standard
>>  ("analog landline telephone") to the recondite ("wireful"), and
>>  "rotary" must be in there somewhere.  Reminds me--this time of year
>>  you can't follow football without hearing more than you ever wanted
>>  to know about the "human polls".
>>  LH
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