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Archive for June, 2018

She’s a Maniac

Want to see something spectacular?

English has an <-ac> suffix.

It’s the clearest thing under the sun. Let me shine a little light on it:

< helium → heli + um >
< heliac → heli + ac >

Here’s another one, if you have the heart to continue:

< cardiologist → cardi + o + log(e) + ist >
< cardiac → cardi + ac >

Here’s one for those who have the guts:

< ileum → il(e) + e + um >
< ileus → il(e) + e + us >
< ileal → il(e) + e + al >
< ileitis → il(e) + e + itis >
< ileac → il(e) + e + ac >

Of course, anyone can look and see that suffixes don’t have to be word final, so we also have such wonders as

< spectacular → spect + ac + ule + ar >
< spectator → spect + ate + or >
< specter → spect + (e)r >
< spectrum → spect + (e)r + um >

And another, for the love of words!

< logophile → log(e) + o + phile >
< logophilia → log(e) + o + phile + ia >
< logophiliac → log(e) + o + phile + i + ac >

We all know by now that <tion> is not a suffix, no matter who may think so. Whether or not something is a suffix is not a matter of opinion or how someone feels; it’s a matter of structure. Often, when people say, “That’s not a suffix” after seeing proof that it is, what they really mean is, “Hey, it’s news to me that that is a suffix, and I am destabilized by it, even though you’ve laid out evidence.” It’s a really stodgy kind of argument, and it’s not at all scientific. I can’t dance around it: the 80s called and wants its understanding back.

Often, people are thrown because what they are looking at is not a productive suffix in English, meaning that we don’t use it for new words. For example, <-ing> and <-ish> are productive suffixes, because we can invent words like Googling  or cyborgish and people will know what we mean. But kids these days aren’t exactly neologizing words like Googlac, and if they did, it’s unlikely that the meaning would be immediately evident.

However, present-day productivity is not a requirement for an affix to be an affix. If someone wants to argue that <-ac> is not a suffix because it’s not productive, then they’d have to also find that the following suffixes are, well, not suffixes, by the same logic: <-ible>, <-ion>, <-or>, <-ar>, <-ant>, <-ence>, and on and on and on.

And, well, that’s just crazy.

< manic → man(e) + ic >
< mania → man(e) + ia >
< maniac → man(e) + i + ac>

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