In linguistics, a libfix is a productive bound morpheme affix created by rebracketing and back-formation, often a generalization of a component of a blended or portmanteau word. For example, walkathon was coined in 1932 as a blend of walk and marathon,[1] and soon thereafter the -athon part was reinterpreted as a libfix morpheme meaning "event or activity lasting a long time or involving a great deal of something".[2][3] Words formed with this suffix include talkathon, telethon, hackathon, and so on. Affixes whose morpheme boundaries are etymologically based, and which are used in their original sense, are not libfixes. Libfixes often utilise interthesis, as in the example of -holism and -holic which are joined with consonant-final segments via the vowel /a/, creating work-a-holism or sex-a-holism.

History

Splinters were defined by Berman in 1961 as non-morphemic word fragments. This includes not just libfixes, but also word fragments which become words, like burger (< hamburger), flu (< influenza), and net (< network).[4][5][6]

The name libfix was coined by Arnold Zwicky in 2010 as a blend of "liberated" and "affix" specifically for splinters used as productive morphemes.[7]

Criticism

Some of these formations have been considered barbarisms by prescriptive writers on style,[8] though other writers have praised them. Speaking of the -tron suffix, a philologist commented:

I once heard an unkind critic allude disparagingly to these neologisms as dog-Greek. To a lover of the language of Sophocles and Plato these recent coinages may indeed appear to be Greek debased. More appropriately, perhaps, they might be termed lion-Greek or chameleon-Greek. They are Neo-Hellenic in the genuine Renaissance tradition.[9]

Examples

Each example gives the affix, the source word(s) from which it was formed, the meaning, and examples.

This list does not include:

English

Suffixes

-ana < Virgiliana (Latin, then French)[10]
things related to a given person, place, period
Churchilliana, Americana, Victoriana
-ase < diastase
an enzyme
lactase, polymerase
-cation < vacation
kinds of vacation
staycation, girlcation
-copter < helicopter
having a spinning rotor allowing for flight
gyrocopter
-core < hardcore
aesthetic
speedcore, grindcore, cottagecore, bardcore
-dar < radar
the skill of detecting qualities or things
gaydar, humordar, Jewdar
-erati < literati
groups of people with common interests
digerati, glitterati
-flation < inflation[11]
economic inflation in a particular field
tipflation, stagflation, shrinkflation
-gasm < orgasm
an intensely pleasurable experience
foodgasm, cargasm, shoegasm, nerdgasm
-gate < Watergate
a scandal
gamergate, troopergate; see List of "-gate" scandals
-(m)(a)geddon < Armageddon
major disasters (usually facetious)
snowgeddon, Irmageddon
-(a)holic, -(a)holism < Alcoholism
addict(ed)
shopaholic, workaholic, sexaholic; see English terms suffixed with -holic
-kini < bikini
type of bathing suit
burkini, monokini, tankini
-(i/e/a/∅)licious < delicious
a high degree of some property (usually jocular)[12]
bootylicious, babelicious, yummalicious, sacrilicious, crunchalicious
-(o)nomics < economics
an economic policy or philosophy
Reaganomics, freakonomics
-ola < pianola, tombola (?)
used to form commercial products; later, for forms of bribery[13]
Victrola, moviola, shinola; payola, plugola
-oma < carcinoma, sarcoma (-ομα is a suffix for deverbal nouns)
a kind of tumor, swelling, or cancer
melanoma, adenoma, papilloma
-ome, -omics < genome, genomics, trichome
a map of a biological system; and other uses in biology
connectome, proteome; biome, rhizome, vacuome
-on < electron (see also -tron)
an elementary particle or quasiparticle
proton, neutron, meson, phonon, etc.; see List of particles
-(o)rama, -o-rama < panorama, diorama, cyclorama (all modern coinages based on the Greek word ὅραμα orama 'something that is seen')
a spectacle or event, also an augmentative
Cinerama, Bananarama, Foodarama
-preneur < entrepreneur
an entrepreneur in some domain
intrapreneur, ecopreneur, mompreneur
-pocalypse < apocalypse
a catastrophic event
snowpocalypse, robopocalypse, beepocalypse
-tard < retard, a pejorative term for a mentally disabled or stupid person
people who are foolish or stupid; pejorative
fucktard, libtard
-(a)thon, -a-thon < marathon
things that last a long time or require remarkable endurance
walkathon, telethon, hackathon
-tron < electron[8]
a kind of vacuum tube; a subatomic particle; a device
magnetron; positron; cyclotron
-verse < universe
the collection of all things in a category, or a fictional universe
blogoverse, Twitterverse, Whoniverse
-wich < sandwich
sandwich
fishwich, hamwich, snackwich
-zilla < Godzilla
monstrous, scary, or large things; can function as an augmentative and pejorative
bridezilla, Mozilla

Prefixes

alt- < alternative (usually written with a hyphen)
outside the mainstream
alt-rock, alt-right
cyber- < cybernetics
issues or policies related to computers
cyberspace, cybercrime
eco- < ecology
related to the environment, to ecology, or to sustainability
eco-terrorism, eco-nationalism, eco-investing
econo- < economics
related to economics; economical, inexpensive
econometrics (not *economometrics), econophysics; econobox
franken- < Frankenstein
related to “human efforts to interfere with nature”[14][15]
frankenfood, frankenplant, frankenscience
glut- < gluten, glutamic acid
related to glutamic acid, one of the amino acids
glutamine, glutamate
heli- < helicopter
types of helicopters; things related to helicopters[16]
helibus; helipad, heliport, helidrome, heliborne
petro- < petroleum, not rock
things related to petroleum
petrodollar, petrochemical, petrocurrency
syn- < synthetic, synthesizer
synthetic; related to (musical) synthesizers
syngas, synfuel, syncrude, Synclavier

Italian

Suffix

-opoli < Tangentopoli 'Bribesville'
a scandal
Bancopoli, Calciopoli

Bibliography

Notes

  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd edition, 2009, s.v. walkathon
  2. ^ Merriam-Webster dictionary online s.v. -athon
  3. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 1972, s.v. -athon
  4. ^ Laurie Bauer, "The borderline between derivation and compounding", p. 97-108 in Morphology and its Demarcations, Selected papers from the 11th Morphology Meeting, Vienna, February 2004
  5. ^ J.M. Berman, "Contribution on Blending", Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik 9:278-281 (1961) (not seen)
  6. ^ Ingrid Fandrych, "Submorphemic elements in the formation of acronyms, blends and clippings", Lexis: Journal in English Lexicology 2 (2008) doi:10.4000/lexis.713
  7. ^ "Libfixes", Arnold Zwicky's Blog, January 23, 2010
  8. ^ a b Tom McArthur, ed., The Oxford companion to the English language, 1992, ISBN 019214183X, s.v. 'Greek', p. 453-454
  9. ^ Simeon Potter, Our Language, 1950, as quoted in Tom McArthur, ed., The Oxford companion to the English language, 1992, ISBN 019214183X, s.v. 'Greek', p. 453-454
  10. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 1884, s.v. ana, suffix
  11. ^ "-flation". www.affixes.org. Retrieved 2023-05-09.
  12. ^ Zwicky, 2006
  13. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. -ola suffix 2
  14. ^ Waldman, Katie (January 6, 2017). "How Franken- Lurched Its Way Into Our Lexicon". Slate.
  15. ^ "'Frankenstein' and 'Frankenfood': Creator or creation?". Merriam-Webster.
  16. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. heli-, combining form