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10 Comments

  • Marc: I think that use of fail arose not through back-formation (i.e., removing the suffix from failure) but through conversion, aka zero derivation: by converting the verb fail into an interjection and then a noun.

  • Stan:
    I think you’re right. I thought about it after I hit send, the expression still has an awkward feel to it, and I still wrinkle my nose when I see it. I’ve noticed what may be an indication of a trend to collapse nouns in particular. My son will often say that he was driving on Easton “Ave” instdead of using the whole word. This may simply be part of current slang-usage (he’s just twenty), but it could be indicative of a move to compress nouns from their Norman-French and Latin origins, more in keeping with the Germanic propensity for monosyllabic words. Of course, one or two examples don’t make a trend.

  • I’m writing an article on the most recent English loanwords entered in the Italian Language and I wonder if the word ‘blog’ (web-log) is originally a blended word that later on back formed.Let me know your opinion, Marilena

  • Marilena – I expect Stan will respond too, but I don’t think “blog” is a back-formation. Maybe closer to apocope (see Stan’s earlier post on this). Your proposed article on loan-words sounds great – maybe we could tempt you to talk about this on our blog too? I’m sure it would be of great interest to everyone.

  • Marc: “Ave” is an interesting usage. I’d be tempted to associate it with the fashion for abbreviation (legend→ledge, etc.) common among young people, which I discussed on my own blog. Adjectival amaze is another example of this.

    Marilena: Your article sounds very interesting; you could add a link here if it’s published online, or follow up on Michael’s suggestion. Regarding your query: in an earlier post about the word blog I quoted Kerry Maxwell saying it has “dipped its toe into just about every word formation process” — clipping, blending, derivation, compounding, and conversion. However, like Michael, I don’t think back formation was involved.

  • Thanks Michael and Stan for replying me. I assume your viewpoints are right. As for Michael’s suggestion, I admit that I am tempted and, I must add, I would be extremely pleased to submit my article to your attention. Let’s stay tuned!Happy Easter and Best Regards to you, Marilena

  • What a great post, Stan. I have a fellow word-nerd who gleefully uses the word “ept” to mean capable, claiming that it should be the opposite of “inept.” I’ve not seen or heard it elsewhere, but I’ve picked it up and occasionally use it myself.

  • Virginia: I don’t know if ept will ever become standard, but it does enjoy occasional (generally comical) use. I just learned that the “ept” in inept comes from Latin aptus, which also led to apt – not quite the opposite of inept, but you can see the connection.

    Mark: That makes sense, and it saves two syllables. Though whether it will spread is less certain.