Geddon and pocalypse: anatomy of a verbal disaster

Snow in Pittsburgh 2010; from Wikimedia Commons

Snow in Pittsburgh 2010; from Wikimedia Commons

The poor folks of Washington DC — and many of us East Coast-dwellers — are preparing for Snowmageddon again. We’re buying bread, milk and D batteries (even though we’re all now gluten-free, lactose-free and we’re not quite sure what those batteries are for, but we think we know we need them): the Snowpocalypse is upon us …

Just when did we start adding –geddon and –pocalypse to identify and anticipate our most epic disasters? Whether real or imagined, extreme or banal, terrifying or funny (or all of the above — which many of them turn out to be), they’re invariably something to be feared and laughed about in equal measure, so mega and unreal and threatening are their proportions.

Armageddon and apocalypse are the progenitors of these ominous suffixes — both referring to biblical end-of-the-world scenarios. Sometimes it’s just geddon; other times the syllabic a gets thrown in for rhythmic effect. Similarly calypse brings its po along when it makes the word sound better. Snowmageddon is perhaps the most famous of these portmanteaus, coined by the Canadian media back in January 2009 to describe that winter’s record-breaking white storms. The portentous name and its snowpocalyptic sister flourished in the U.S. press around the time of Washington DC’s historic weather event the following year; the Washington Post used both terms liberally in its polls and blogs about the monster blizzard. Never before had the poetic flakes and inches of winter been transformed into visions of end-times with the simple addition of 8 or 9 letters. Those doomy* extra syllables started an epic trend; since the advent of snowmageddon, we’ve heard everything from Obamageddon to pharmageddon; robopocalypse to syrup-pocalypse. 

Geddon and pocalypse are far from alone in the world of abominable suffixes: here are some other popular add-ons that lend gross exaggeration to our otherwise normally proportioned vocabulary. Please add any more that you can think of to the comments section below.

-gate (from Watergate): as in a big scandal

-athon (from marathon): as in something that lasts a long time

-tastic (from fantastic): as in emphasizing its most positive qualities, even if it’s crap

-licious (from delicious): as in emphasizing its most tasty qualities

-gasmic (from orgasmic): as in emphasizing its most exciting qualities

-zilla (from Godzilla): as in big. Mega-big. Epic big.

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* Yes, doomy is a word, according to Merriam-Webster

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