Word of The Day for Wednesday, October 20, 2010


hy•poc•o•rism (hahy-pok-uh-riz-uhm)  n

1. a pet name
2. the practice of using a pet name
3. the use of forms of speech imitative of baby talk, esp. by an adult

hypocoristic adjective & noun; hypocoristically adverb

• Most first names of any currency had recognized hypocoristic forms. Some names attracted only one or two main forms; others had several; and there was scope for a fair degree of inventiveness.
• This hypocorism started about a century ago, as friendly British barmaids clipped the word's pronunciation slightly to use it as a term of endearment: "What'll yer 'ave, Luv?"

The Storyline
While Anna could not hear what Kurt said into Tyler's ear when he went to his aid, she amused herself by imagining some private hypocorism.

1840–50: Late Latin hypocorisma, a loan from Ancient Greek noun hypokórisma from the verb  hypokorízomai, “to talk in a childish manner”. The Ancient Greek verb hypokorízomai is compounded from  hypo-, “under, beneath, secretly” +  korízomai, “to caress”.

Sources: Wiktionary, Dictionary.com, Wikipedia

Why This Word:
Don't you just wub cutsie wittle pet names? And don't try to act like you've never done it.
Hypocorism can take the form of a shorter form of a word or given name (Elizabeth -> Beth); a reduction of a longer word to a single syllable, then adding -y or -ie to the end (television -> telly); a baby-talk form (love -> wub); pet-names (pookey-bear); a given name with a diminutive suffix (John -> Johnny); and duplication (Ben -> Ben-Ben).
In the 19th Century, hypocorism "was once briefly a buzzword among linguists, who used it rather broadly to mean 'adult baby talk,' that is, the altered speech adults use when supposedly imitating babies." Today, in an age of ads, Twitter and texting, we are awash in foreshortened speech of a different sort. I suppose it's arguable whether the abbreviations and pronunciation spellings, like wassup and gonna, of the 140-character set constitute hypocorism. Certainly it's informal speech meant to cultivate the same sort of familiarity as hypocorisms.
And it shouldn't go unnoticed that the title of this blog is something of a hypocorism. In addition to be a play on wordy and e-word, it's a play on wordie, as in foodie, implying being into words.

Word-E: A Word-A-Day

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