Our guest blogger this week is lexicographer and humorist Mark Peters, a rabid tweeter, a language columnist for Good and Visual Thesaurus, as well as the blogger behind The Rosa Parks of Blogs. His newest project is Blago Laureate: The Poetry of Rod (expletive) Blagojevich. In the original post below, he considers the many -ectomies available to the modern English speaker.
Because of the security/privacy problems with Facebook—problems that are about as shocking as a werewolf not fitting in at the dog park—the word Facebook-ectomy gained some prominence a few months back, mainly because of the article “How to Perform a Facebook-ectomy.”
I’m no doctor, but Facebook-ectomy is a helluva creative word, and it occurs to me that I’ve been taking -ectomy for granted as a wild and wooly word-producer. Well, I haven’t completed ignored it, as my nonce-word blog has included ponytail-ectomy, butthole-ectomy, homework-ectomy, and who-knows-what-ectomy. My favorite finds are right-side-of-my-head-ectomy and alien-head-ectomy. I’m pretty sure either surgery would qualify as an ouchie, though the latter might have the benefit of saving humanity—always a plus.
I’m not the first to notice an ectomy-palooza. World Wide Words creator Michael Quinion has noted parentectomy and humorectomy, while Stanford University linguist Arnold Zwicky has commented on a Snickers ad’s use of hungerectomy. There are ever-more ectomies being coined every day, words far less serious than well-known surgeries such as the appendectomy, mastecomy, and vasectomy, and the many medical terms I’ve (luckily) never heard of, such as the OED-recorded myomectomy, strumectomy, and duodenectomy. Since May, I’ve been grabbing examples from Twitter to get a sense of the suffix’s range. You don’t need a doctorate in suffixology to see that just about anything—even a coyote—can be ectomied these days, in the no-holds-barred world of what Michael Adams calls “unorthodox lexifabricology.”
Many examples stay close to the physical, and some colloquialize real procedures, like wisdom-tooth-ectomy, voicebox-ectomy, and gall bladder-ectomy. Then there are fanciful terms such as second-chin-ectomy and wrinkle-ectomy (for folks feeling a little fat in the face or long in the tooth). Eyelid-ectomy, shoulder-ectomy, stomach-ectomy, GI tract-ectomy, coccyx-ectomy and throat-ectomy are longed-for solutions to problems in those tender regions. You have to admire the understated, black humor of the oft-used head-ectomy, a far more radical procedure than hair-specific terms such as fro-ectomy, mullet-ectomy and right-eyebrow-ectomy, which, according to the literature I’ve seen, can be performed at the same time as a bandana-ectomy.
Ectomies easily extend to feelings and qualities. We’d all be better off if the arrogance-ectomy, hubris-ectomy, dramaqueen-ectomy, passiveaggressive-ectomy, piety-ectomy, stick-up-the-ass-ectomy, stupid-ectomy, angst-ectomy, and smug-ectomy—not to mention the halo-ectomy—were available as outpatient procedures, or in pill form. In that world, there would surely be fewer last-nerve-ectomies. As for me, I’d gladly sign up for a worry gene-ectomy and a blah-ectomy. If I were religious, I’d probably see if my insurance covers a sin-ectomy. On the other hand, what could be scarier than a memory-ectomy, which could leave any of us roaming the earth, seeking bloody vengeance and memory-enhancing tattoos, much like that guy in Memento.
Some terms suggest the removal of non-personal stuff that is no less near and dear, such as a procedure I would dread: a DVD-ectomy (unless it were lodged in my anatomy). I noticed several examples of the sad and synonymous cash-ectomy and wallet-ectomy. In May, the world underwent a Lost-ectomy in the form of the series finale, and I’m still feeling the pain of separation, along with a depressing lack of polar bears and smoke monsters in my life. Recently, Cleveland received an unwanted LeBron-ectomy; other people can be removed via the family-ectomy and stepmother-ectomy. I rather like tweep-ectomy, which refers to the accidental blocking of a follower on Twitter. Tweep-ectomy combines wacky suffixation with a cool blend: tweep, a blend of Twitter and peep, which itself is a shortened version of people with a spelling change. That’s 10 pounds of lexicography stuffed into a one-word bag.
Full citations follow for some of the awesomest terms, so you know I’m not making this stuff up. Frankly, I’m chagrinned that you would even think of such a thing. You know that chagrin makes me peeved, and peevishness is so unpleasant that I’m calling my doctor to arrange a full chagrin-ectomy and partial peev-otomy, and I’m sending you the bill. Happy?