Daily Archives: March 27, 2013


Is -ist the next -ly or -ster?

Does that make sense? How about this: After e- and i-, what’s next?

That might make more sense. With the e prefix (for electronic) on email came a welter of other e– branded items. And with Apple’s iMac and iPod and iPhone, there have come to be numerous other i- branded items wanting to ride the crest. It was the latest thing for a while. Once some brand leader comes along with a new prefix, expect a fad for that. So what next?

Likewise with suffixes. A few of us may remember Friendster, a proto-Facebook, and Napster, a music file-sharing network. They drew on a popular jocular -ster addition to names and nouns (“Hey, Rickster! How ya doin’?”), taken from the still-productive suffix as in gangster, mobster, teamster, and so on. A few other website names with -ster have also shown up, for example a speed-trap warning community, Trapster, and a tea-lover community, Steepster. There are other brand names such as the Veloster, a Hyundai car. And of course there are hipsters.

And there was -ly, as in bit.ly and various other websites – because .ly is the Libya domain suffix and domains registered to it are available for a reasonable rate and it allows formation of words such as visual.ly and futurefriend.ly, but also as a fad on the English suffix; it shows up in other domains such as graphicly.com and optimizely.com.

And now there is -ist, as in the whole chain of -ist websites for cities – my local one is Torontoist.com, but there’s a network, and it has clear hipster tones: Gothamist (New York is Gotham for geeks, fanboys, and other “in the know” people), Austinist, DCist, SFist, Chicagoist, and a few others. I am beginning to see other -ists as well, perhaps spurred by the city websites. There’s todoist.com, a task manager. There’s Eyeist, an online photography review service. There’s Contemporist, about contemporary culture.

Perhaps next will be -age. It’s already popular for colloquial formations of mass nouns: if you can have verbiage and sewage, why not feedage (already the name of an RSS directory) and trollage (also in use, because trolling is not nounly enough, I guess)? What website and other brand names may show up with it?

I raised the question today on Twitter of whether -ist was the next -ly or -ster. A fellow Tweeter, @maxbaru, asked, “isn’t ist already a suffix in SE?” I answered, “Suffix, sure, but fadfix?” I clarified: “You know, affixes that are used faddishly in brand names. (Actually, I think I just made up the word “fadfix.”)”

You can find fadfix with a Google search, true, but not with this usage: there is a publicity consultant for fashion companies, and a Saudi finish building material company belonging to the Fadl Al-Ashey Group, and a lot of usages of fad fix (as in getting your fix of the latest fad). People who are not linguistics geeks are less likely to have suffix, prefix, and affix in their mind. But I think it’s a perfectly good coinage for the purpose at hand – a portmanteau of fad and affix. If affix is not a familiar term for you, I will clarify: it refers to any bits that can be attached onto words but can’t be independent words themselves. They can go at the start (prefix), at the end (suffix), or even in the middle (infix) – though we don’t do infixes in English, just colloquial tmesis. As a bonus, affix is from Latin ad ‘to’ plus fixus ‘fastened’. So it would be adfix except there was assimilation in the Latin. In the Latin, though, not the English! We will not make faffix out of fadfix.

So fadfixes are any affixes used faddishly, especially for brand names. I wonder whether we might even include pseudofixes – not real affixes, but simply catchy replacements of existing elements, such as X in a million places where there might otherwise be ex, or the various replacements of to and for with 2 and 4 (such as in In4mation, In4mants, and even a Spanish website that uses the English replacement in the middle of a Spanish verb: In4mateinfórmate is “inform yourself,” but incuatromate is nothing…). Maybe, to be extra-hip, we can de-X the X and call those fadfickses. Or would that be just too fickle?