Being “Productive” in Linguistics


When I was younger, the prefix “mini” became popular to use with an assortment of unrelated suffixes. We had “miniskirt,” of course, but I remember “mini brain,” “minicar” and “minidress,” even “miniassignment.” My linguistics prof said that “mini” was productive.

I just ran into another word or word fragment that shows signs of becoming productive: -splain.

We have the original, “explain,” but I’ve heard “mansplain” and “mansplaining” lots of times lately. Here’s a new one:

If oilsplaining isn’t already word already, it should be, because it’s the only way I feel like I can describe this essay’s purpose.

The word is even in the title of the article.

Here’s picture of the person who wrote the article, Emily Atkin:

Productivity assumes the reader doesn’t need to get a formal definition of the new word (aka neologism) because the parts of the word are familiar.

I guess I like to be a wordsplainer.

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