MY YEAR OF NEW WORDS, PART 3: CLIPPING

If you Febrify something, you reduce it by 1/15th or 2/30th. So for February it makes sense to introduce the technique of clipping. You shorten a word, from the front (auto from automobile, gas from gasoline, dorm from dormitory, exam from examination) or from the end (zine, burger, hood). You can even sometimes clip words from both sides at once: flu, from influenza, fridge from refrigerator or Lisa from Elizabeth. (Why yes, many nicknames are clippings).

Clipping can be tricky, by the way, and can blend into blending when you clip parts of two words and then blend them— WiFi (wireless + fidelity), hazmat (hazardous + material). If fact, most blends have a certain amount of clipping in them. Take nomophophobia (NO muh fuh FO bi uh) the fear of being without a cell phone or cell phone signal. It has a lot of internal clipping (no+mobile+phone+phobia) and manages to sneak in muh fuh as well.

Doubtcome from doubt + outcome and testosterantics from testosterone + antics also have that internal clipping. My favorite February clipping was venge, clipped simultaneously from avenge and revenge and kimpy from skimpy (kimpy, of course, is even skimpier than skimpy, see the discussion of tumble and stumble above).

Jonathan Swift didn’t care for clipping, by the way, complaining that “This perpetual Disposition to shorten our Words, by retrenching the Vowels, is nothing else but a tendency to lapse into the Barbarity of those Northern Nations from whom we are descended, and whose Languages labour all under the same Defect.” Then again, Swift also proposed eating babies.

About Ed Battistella

Edwin Battistella’s latest book Sorry About That: The Language of Public Apology was released by Oxford University Press in June of 2014.
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