Thursday, February 24, 2011

Word formation processes and language change

This piece by Stan Carey on the MacMillan Dictionary Blog is worth a look if you're trying to come up with examples of recently created new words. As he points out, with words like staycation and daycation, many of these new words are the result of similar processes, in this case the blending of  whole words or elements of existing words, so stay + vacation = staycation, while day + vacation = daycation.

You can also see some examples of new words that relate to specific events, such as flunami ("an extremely large increase in the number of people suffering from flu" formed by flu + tsunami) being linked to the recent spike in flu cases, while snowpocalypse (snow + apocalypse), snowmageddon (snow + armageddon) and blizzaster (blizzard + disaster) all relate to the USA's recent bad weather and increasingly inventive ways to describe its magnitude.

Of course, as we find ever more inventive ways to express the size of something massive, the original words that used to mean that something was impressive or big tend to get bleached, losing their power and forcing us to find an expression that's more powerful.

1 comment:

Stan said...

Thanks, Dan. I suppose it's not surprising that many of these hyperbolic new compounds arise in relation to extreme weather. I just hope we haven't used (and weakened) the best of them too soon!