Let not the clipsome go unclasped,
Nor yet the handsome go ungrasped;
Chase me, embrace me, squeeze me well,
And let us snug and hug a spell.
What is clipsome? It’s something that many a person feels after a long time of lockdown. No, not needing a haircut – I mean, that too, but that’s not what clipsome means. It means embraceable, huggable, claspable. Like Judy Garland and all these lads in Girl Crazy:
Why is that clipsome? Well, consider the clip – I mean the kind you use to hold things together, not to cut them off. This word clip comes from an old Germanic root meaning ‘clasp, embrace, kiss’; that was its first sense in English, too. From that came a sense ‘grip tightly’, and from that came a word for devices that grip tightly. Sort of like clamps, but, at least these days, a little smaller and lighter – clamps can hold lamps, but clips are sized for lips (well, ouch, but I couldn’t not use that). And as late as the 1800s, the ‘embrace’ sense was common enough that clipsome was a sensible word meaning ‘fit to be embraced’.
In case you’re wondering about that other clip, by the way, the one you do to hair, it comes from a different root, one that comes from the sound – just like clap, click, clank, et cetera. Scissors make a “clip, clip” sound (or at least they can; the ones I use tend to sound more like “snip, snip”).
And so it just happens that we have a phonaesthemic doublet. Some words that start with cl- have to do with abrupt onset of sound or action: clack, clang, clank, clap, and the rest of the largely onomatopoeic (if regularized) bunch, plus perhaps cliff. Other words that start with cl- have to do with things being or coming together: clam, clamp, clan, clasp, cleave, clench, cling, clot, clump, cluster, clutch… There are, of course, other cl- words that have nothing to do with either (clerk, clever, clinic, clover…), but cl- tends to show up a bit more often than chance would have it with one of these two general senses.
Which shouldn’t be so surprising: most of us don’t bear etymology in mind when speaking; we just think of words in terms of resemblance – the more words have a certain feature to them, the more we are likely to associate that feature with that sound. The bigger the cluster, the more clipsome it is.