Column: Cray cray apocopations


Commentary by Curtis Honeycutt

If you’ve ever spilled your brandy on your tux near the grand piano at the rhino zoo, you know what I’m talking about. If that’s not you, then just know five words in the previous sentence are examples of apocope words. Did you see that ad for the new bike? I just used two examples of apocopes. Is “apocope” a made-up word that I’m slipping into your brain grapes like some kind of bamboozler?

Apocope (pronounced uh-PAH-kuh-pee) comes from the Greek word apokoptein, meaning “to cut off.” It occurs when someone cuts off the last part of a word. “Photo” is a classic example of an apocope. The full, original word is “photograph.” People used to watch moving pictures. Now, we watch “movies.” And if you think apocope words, otherwise known as apocopations, are old news, they’re totes, not (totes = totally).

Although plenty of established words, including hippo, fridge, limo, mayo and camo, are examples of apocopations, we use plenty of them in newer applications (or perhaps I should say “apps”). New apocope words include cred (credibility), gig (gigabyte), guac (guacamole), info (information), legit (legitimate) and typo (typographical error). As you could probably guess, bro, many apocopations begin as slang words.

Most of the following words won’t show up in your dictionary. That’s because they’re in the larval stage of their etymology. The most tongue-in-cheek example is “abbrev,” which is short for “abbreviation.” Similarly, “ridic” is an apocopation of “ridiculous.” You can probably tell that “hilar” is a shortened form of the word “hilarious,” obvi (obviously). Whatevs (whatever).

While the youths find these apocope words “totes adorbs” (totally adorable), I suspect generations more advanced in age will find them “natch” (naturally) annoying. Perhaps these people are named Barb, Dan, Bev, Rob or Steve, which are all apocopic names. I’m not trying to diss (disrespect) you; I’m just trying to point out how abundant apocope words are in our collective lexicon.

“Hold on a sec, fam,” you may say. “I might be retro, but I still have street cred.” While we all wish to project a “cas vibe,” we need to encourage and celebrate the continued, vibrant evolution of the English language. Call me cray (crazy), but “apocope” is quickly becoming my favorite word in the history of the universe — that’s no exag (exaggeration).