“Brexit”-Inspired Puns Join “-gate,” “-gasm” & “-pocalypse” In Baker’s Dozen Of Abused Suffixes

Before every scandal became a “gate,” there was Watergate. Before every event that lasts longer than it should was labeled a “thon,” there was Marathon. Now the headlines about Britain’s decision to leave the European Union have resulted in a spate of “Brexit”-inspired puns.

In fact, the term Brexit itself isn’t the original source for this play on words — a simple smash-up of “Britain” and “exit.” The Brit use of the term was inspired by “Grexit,” a word created to label speculation that financially troubled Greece would exit the European Union in 2015.

Now the term “Frexit” is being bandied about by even the stuffiest of old-school media outlets to discuss the possibility of France leaving the EU, while stateside there is increasing use of “Texit” and “Calexit” to describe movements in the nation’s two most populous states.

This straightforward, if occasionally clunky, slapping of known suffixes to form new words is just something we humans love to do. It’s a form of linguistic and cultural shorthand we use when trying to communicate a concept that may lack a single, defining term.

Want something that sounds like economics but has to do with buying and selling cheese and all the market fluctuations involved? “Cheese-nomics.” Done.

Other word evolutions don’t make much sense outside of a cultural context, like with the proliferation of words ending with “gate” to suggest a scandal. Did Deflategate have anything to do with an apartment complex in Washington, D.C.? No, but that “gate” implies something shady and secretive by referencing the June 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee office at the Watergate complex and its subsequent cover-up.

Herewith, we present a slew of suffixes that have been swiped, borrowed, and otherwise used to make a new word when we humans can’t come up with anything else.

1. -gate

Origin: As mentioned above, the “gate” suffix got its start with Watergate. The complex itself is named after a large wooden water gate that marks the spot where the Ohio Canal meets the Potomac River, The Washington Post noted in 2004.
How it’s used now: The suffix is now used to suggest the existence of a far-reaching scandal, unethical behavior, or perhaps a cover-up of some sort. There’s football’s Deflategate (did the New England Patriots illegally deflate footballs?), Nipplegate (born the moment Justin Timberlake showed the world Janet Jackson’s nipple during a Super Bowl halftime show), and Bendgate (in which iPhone 6 Plus users claimed their phones were bending), to name just a few.

2. -o-rama/-a-rama

Origin: It all started with “panorama,” from the Greek “pan” plus “horama,” meaning view, or sight, advice column Straight Dope said back in 1984. The panorama was what a guy named Robert Barker called his invention in 1789, “a type of painting showing a wide-angle view of some notable scene.” Diorama followed, and that seems to have kicked off the -arama fad, as Balzac wrote in his 1834 novel Old Goriot (see excerpt at right).
How it’s used now: If there’s a sight to behold, it’s gonna have -rama on the end of it, whether it’s a sale-o-rama, a spell-o-rama, cheese-o-rama, or drama-o-rama. With your mama. Some guy on the internet listed a whole bunch more here, in this list-o-rama.


Origin: It all goes back to “Lollapalooza,” which Merriam Webster defines as “a person or thing that is particularly impressive or attractive.” Though its origin is unknown, Merriam Webster says its first known use was 1896, nearly a century before then Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell branded his traveling music festival with the name.
How it’s used now: These days, “palooza” is tacked onto words too describe anything that has a lot of something: booze-a-palooza, fun-a-palooza, cheese-a-palooza, looser-palooza, snooze-a-palooza or even a palooza-palooza.


Origin: We’ve all heard the story of the Greek messenger Pheidippides, who ran from Marathon to Athens (26.1 miles or so) with the news that Greece had beaten the Persians in the battle of Marathon. You’ve probably known someone who’s run a marathon at least well enough to bug you for donations.
How it’s used now: The suffix is tacked on to words to describe anything that’s long-lasting or a difficult task. There have been telethons, walkathons, danceathons, talkathons, wordathons, and if my hopes and dreams come true, cheeseathons.


Origin: Vacation comes from the Latin, vacare, to be unoccupied. In modern English, it means taking time off from work or school to go somewhere fun.
How it’s used now: At some point in the early 21st century, some thoroughly awful evil person decided that tacking the word “cation” on anything that rhymes with “bay” was acceptable to mean “I’m unoccupied,” so we now have bastardized versions of the word like the utterly deplorable “staycation” (staying at home and not working),“playcation” (playing on vacation?), and “daycation” (just taking the day off). Then we all just gave up, and beachcation, sleepcation, footballcation, campcation, and generally just stuck any word in front of the suffix. Honestly? Vacation is all I ever wanted. That and a cheesecation.

6. -tastic

Origin: When something was extraordinarily good, or extraordinarily large, or just an extraordinary tale, it was called fantastic. “My, isn’t Aaron Rodgers a fantastic quarterback?” or, “That cheesehead looks fantastic on you!”
How it’s used now: Starting in the 1930s, anything with “tastic” tacked on meant “forming adjectives denoting someone or something regarded as an extremely good example of their particular type,” as Oxford Dictionaries puts it. Or sometimes, things that are large in number. “This cheese cave is cheesetastic.” Other examples include but are not limited to: Funtastic, crapcastic, beertastic, cattastic, pizzatastic, smashtastic, Mr. Boombastic, and of course, Comcastic.

7. -pocalypse

Origin: This one will save you absolutely no time, as it’s just one letter off “apocalypse,” which is “an event involving destruction or damage on an awesome or catastrophic scale,” Oxford Dictionaries says.
How it’s used now: If it’s the end of some kind of world as you know it, you can slap a -pocalypse on it to say so. There was New York City’s Snowpocalypse, which really turned into boozepocalypse; Chipotlapocalypse; Twinkiepocalypse; or heaven forbid, a cheesepocalypse. Did it just start raining a lot? It must be a rainpocalypse!

8. -itude

Origin: If you’ve got an attitude, it means you have a settled way of thinking or feeling about a topic, which is usually shown in your behavior. Like your parents always told you, “Don’t give me attitude.”
How it’s used now: We’ve all got a new attitude, and by “we,” I mean anything can now be ascribed to your state of mind — catitude, dudeitude, baditude, saditude, cheeseitude, raditude, daditude, maditude. Snarkitude not wanted.

9. -ercize

Origin: Exercise, which is any activity you do that requires you to move your body around with the intention of improving health.
How it’s used now: At some point, we Americans decided that some displays of physical effort were just too exciting to go by that old name. Why not do some jazzy steps instead… and call it Jazzercise (which has been around since 1969)? Or if you’re really feeling lazy and kind of sexy (?), you could just Relaxacize. In addition: boxercise, sexercise, watercise, cheesercise.

10. -gasm

Origin: Orgasm, that thing that humans like to have at the end of sex that feels fantastic.
How it’s used now: Tack on a -gasm to any word that is involved with an explosion of wonderfulness. Some people have eargasms, or joygasms, cheesegasms or cakegasms, dragongasms or wordgasms. We are not here to judge your gasm.

11. -oholic/-ahalic

Origin: Alcholic, one addicted to drinking alcohol.
How it’s used now: This suffix is tacked onto words nowadays to refer to anything you can’t stop doing, i.e. workaholic, rageaholic, shopaholic, cheeseaholic, Tweetaholic, duckfaceselfie-aholic.

12. -ista

Origin: This Spanish suffix is used to much like we use “-istic,” like in optimistic or altruistic. If you’re an altruist in Mexico, you’re an altruista. Or if you’re a member of a a member of a left-wing Nicaraguan political organization named after Augusto César Sandino, you’re a Sandinista, a term many American first heard in the 1960s.
How it’s used now: It’s pretty much used the same way now — if you’re into fashion, you’re a (cringe) fashionista. If you serve coffee at a bar/cafe and insist on calling sizes something other than “small,” “medium,” and large, you’re a barista.

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