In anticipation of the English language’s millionth word, Forbes recently put together a special report on neologisms—i.e., new words that have entered the lexicon. As you peruse the articles, you’ll notice that several of these coinages, such as carpocalypse and momager, are nouns created by smashing two existing words together to create a new one that draws meaning from the associations of its parts: car plus apocalypse equals the disaster or destruction of the automobile industry, and mom plus manager equals a mother who controls or directs her child’s career.
Traditionally, new nouns are coined not by word-on-word smashups but by simple addition. This can happen in one of two ways:
Compound nouns combine two or more words to form one new one, either with spaces (swimming pool), with hyphens (mother-in-law), or without (bedroom).
What’s called a derivative noun is formed by adding a prefix or suffix to an existing noun, adjective, or verb. Common prefixes include cross- (crossroad), half- (halftime), mid- (midpoint), and self- (self-confidence). Common suffixes include -ness (liveliness), -ship (friendship), -dom (freedom), -th (depth), and -er (winner).
Today’s post marks Mots Justes’ last in a continuing series on nouns. Starting next week, we’ll tackle the noun’s closest relative, the pronoun.
Chicago Manual of Style, The. 15th ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2003.