It’s true! I’m a rageaholic! I’m addicted to rageahol!

 ~ Homer Simpson




Some of the best quotes ever come from Homer Simpson.

Anyway, in honour of our friend The [Prefix] iest Thing I saw Today returning to the blogosphere, I thought I’d talk a bit about suffixes; specifically suffixes creating protologisms[1].

As in Homer’s example, why do we keep adding “aholic” to all sorts of nouns to make them mean an addiction: workaholic, chocaholic, sleepaholic, etc.? Especially when they’re not even real addictions? And when the suffix is meaningless. It’s stolen from “alcoholic”, which has been used as a term to describe someone addicted to alcohol.

The suffix “ic” doesn’t even mean addiction; just something relating to or characterized by – as in, “alcoholic beverage”, “seismic activity”, “academic”.

It’s all fun and games, but I wonder if it doesn’t diminish the meaning of the original word. Alcoholism isn’t the same as being really fond of chocolate, is it?

Another example of suffix bastardization is “athon” – walkathon, telethon, danceathon, drinkathon, sale-a-thon. The original word, “marathon” comes from the Greek town by the same name. They held a running competition regularly and their athletes were called the Marathon runners.

Along those same lines is the “burger” suffix, which had now sort of become a word (or probably more accurately, a “morpheme”[2]). The original hamburger is named after a similar sandwich invented in the town of Hamburg, Germany. There is no town of Cheeseburg, Chickenburg, Turkeyburg or Salmonburg. (Well, there might be, but they were probably named after the sandwich rather than the other way around.)

The scandal that arose from the breaking, entering and burglary at the Watergate office complex, spawned an endless number of “gates” – Contragate, Irangate, Camillagate, Whitewatergate.

And, finally, since I used it in my second sentence, “blogosphere” is one of those protologisms. The suffix (and morpheme) “sphere”, means something like a 3-dimensional body where all points are an equal distance from a center.

I’m not sure that the blogging community meets that definition.  But it’s interesting that there’s actually  some controversy about who first invented the term blogosphere. Brad Graham and William Quick are both laying claim to coining the term. 

[1] I love words like this! A neologism is a newly coined term that has been widely used for some time, but hasn’t quite made it into the dictionary. A protologism is an even newer word that isn’t even really a word yet and probably shouldn’t be a word, but is being used. Protologism might be the only word that is actually an example of itself.

[2] The smallest linguistic unit that has semantic meaning


UPDATE: You may remember about 3 weeks ago I posted a plea to help find the Deep Friar’s sister’s lost dog, Tipper.  Well, after 24 days, Tipper was finally found and returned to her home — a little worse for wear but alive and kicking!! You can read about it here on Friar’s blog.

28 responses to “Suffixaholic

  1. Okay, Ms. Wordperson, what about “head” as in cheesehead, deadhead, beerhead, – did they come from “pothead?” I love this post. It’s funkalicious.

  2. Geewits: “Head” as a suffix is actually a lot older than the “pothead” days. It’s from the German word “heit” meaning a condition or quality – like Gesundheit, which means a state of good health. Even when Old English adopted this word and it morphed into “head” it was used in the same way (godhead, maidenhead). Only recently it took on a derogatory flavour to describe an addicted person.

    Jazz – Yay!! I’ve induced a sopoforic state of dependency.

    LSG – Hey, thanks mucho

    Cedar – Add it to the Wiki dictionary and it WILL be a word.

    Bandobras – And newborns are often colicaholics

  3. It used to piss me off when CNN would run these little trivia facts and call them ‘factoids’. The suffix ‘oid’ means ‘having the appearance of” or “having similarity to” — humanoid means having the appearance of a human. BUT NOT A HUMAN.

  4. Oops. Hit publish by accident.

    So, to continue, they were calling these little snippets ‘things that look like facts, but aren’t’. I don’t think that was the intention. I figure they should have called them ‘factlets’, but nobody ever listens to me when I start bitching about language. (I love these kinds of posts. Do one on tautology, OK?)

  5. Yeah, do a totally unique post on tautology! That would be cool. Or if you like, I could rant about the use of the word “decimate” on news broadcasts……

  6. Grouchy – I wasn’t complaining. There’s not a lot of spoken language stuff that really makes me wince. Written is a different ball game, but spoken English is kind of interesting as it evolves day by day.

    Alison – I’m thinking CNN really did mean “factoids” judging by some of the stuff they spew. Tautology, eh? Is this about that “true facts” thing again?

    Coyote – One large suffixahol with an umbrella coming up.

    Alison – I know! Isn’t it a remarkable story? I’d secretly given up on the poor thing, figuring she’d gone the way of what’s-his-name the wallaby.

    Loth – Did Alison ask YOU to do a post on tautology? I think not. I do believe this is MY blog and she asked ME to do it…. But if you have something up your sleeve, go for it. Let me know.

  7. Rule of thumb: any word that ends in “ism” is an artsy-fartsy word.

    Oligarchial Collectivism

    “Ism” words should only be used by trained professionals (i.e. berkenstock-wearing pony-tailed tortured-intellectual community college profs).

    PS. Thanks for all the help with Tipper. (She’s back..YAYYYYY!

  8. Grouchy – Who knew grammar could be so philosophical?

    Friar – (Yay for Tipper. I hope you’re going to throw her a party with lots of gifts and stuff.) I think that ism thing is another quote from Homer? “Good things don’t end in -eum; they end in -mania or -teria.”

    CNC – Maybe you should write a dictionary instead of a novel??

    Leah – Hi Piglet. Will you be my BA sponsor?

  9. Seriously: When I read a post like this one, I give you Major Props for still hanging around my blog so faithfully, being that it’s pretty much nothing but one big never-ending bastardization of the English language.

    WOOT! Yay for Tipper!!!

  10. I’m with you on this one! The “aholic” is particularly annoying.
    I’m getting increasingly bothered by the Twitter-related words. I refuse to use them. It’s moronic.

  11. You know, about 20 minutes after I read this yesterday, a woman was being introduced on TV for writing a book called “Womenomics.” I immediately thought of you. Is that going to happen for the rest of my life? Everytime someone uses a xupfix?

  12. Jobthingy – Does anyone know what you’re talking about when you say blogland? It sounds like a theme park. But it would be a really fun theme park.

    Lesley – The great thing about the English language is that you CAN do stuff like this. One of the reasons that English is more or less THE universal language is that it’s so malleable. There are snooty old languages that haven’t changed their official dictionary in hundreds of years. English language dictionaries change almost daily English: the language that begs you to play with it!! So, you go girl.

    TEG – See my comment to Lesley -although there is a line between playing with language and just being too butt ignorant to know how to communicate effectively

    Geewits – Yes, prefixes are next; then we’ll move on to conjunctions and interjections. Soon almost everything will begin to remind you of me!! Mwah-ha-ha (Womenomics??? seriously?? I guess it’s not worse than Reganomics)

  13. xup: of course!! it would be my pleasure. ‘cept i think you have far more wisdom than i, perhaps our combined wisdom we could take over the world.

    unrelated, i heard a rumor that canadians wear sock with sandals, from a person who lives in maine. i personally have to wear socks b/c i cannot stand for my feet to get sweaty. is this true about canadians in general?

  14. I’m so glad to hear that Tipper is safe. I wish she could tell us her stories, but maybe not…they might make us cry.

    I had a comment to make about your interesting post but I’ve forgotten it after reading all of the other comments and then I I read about Leah wearing socks with sandals and that was the end of lucid thought.

  15. Leah – As luck would have it, I did an entire post of the wearing of socks with sandals with a bonus feature photograph of my very own feet wearing socks and sandals. Have a look at Are You Into S & S?
    Lola- It would be an amazing story, I’m sure and you’re right — a sad one too.

    CP – Cyberspace – ha ha. It’s like one of those 1960s sci-fi movies where aliens try to take over the world. I’m kidding. I think it’s still used, but it’s more wide-ranging than just the blogosphere; though of course bloggers really ARE the internet.

  16. From trashee in Paris!
    How about “…meter”?
    Stressometer, angermeter, annoyancemeter, laughometer…
    I can’t stand that!