Today's Tank McNamara:
AS YOU may know, the Oklahoma City Thunder held its first-ever home opener last week, against the Milwaukee Bucks. Me, I headed to the only place to be on such a historic night: Floyd's Place bar in Seattle. […]
Think your city's suffering? Imagine if your favorite team bolted town after 41 seasons, not for some cosmopolitan burg but a dusty outpost where oil derricks qualify as urban skyline. Now imagine turning to your city's other teams for solace only to find each to be avert-your-eyes abysmal. Welcome to Seattle, home of the Sportspocalypse.
Don't take it from me, though. Here's Sherman Alexie, the brilliant Seattle writer and National Book Award winner, summoning all his powers of eloquence. "It is," he proclaims, "the worst f—— year ever."
Or Owen Good, "Your Guide to Video Gaming's Sportspocalypse 2011", kotaku.com 2/26/2011:
Sportspocalypse. Sportsmageddon. Spörtsnarök? Whatever you want to call it, the coming month is packed with sports video game releases – a seven-way showdown of licensed sports titles in a month that normally sees only two baseball games.
Or Jonathan Mahler, "The Lone Horseman of the Sportspocalype", NYT 6/2/2011, etc., etc.
It's been a few years since -pocalypse joined the long list of "libfix" morphemes — see for example "The half-life of the hashtag", 3/1/2010, reproducing a cartoon in which a members of the mythical Word Hashtag Council says to her colleagues, "Okay, we've used #snowmageddon and #snowpocalypse. So we're down to #snowicane or #snurricane." And Ben Zimmer, here, dated snowmageddon and snowpocalypse to 2005.
Libfix is the neologism that Arnold Zwicky has suggested for the results of "the 'liberation' of parts of words … to yield word-forming elements that are semantically like the elements of compounds but are affix-like in that they are typically bound". Arnold's recent inventory of 24 libfix posts is a good start, but misses quite a few, including -licious, -apotamus, -lanche — and the whole -mageddon/-pocalypse complex. Across the universe of linguistic commentary, there must be dozens of other discussions — someone should compile a more complete inventory . (And commenters are invited to suggest entries. Note that what's being asked for is NOT a list of new libfix candidates — that's easy, though I suppose also relevant — but rather links to places where such elements have been documented or at least discussed.)
As usual, the libfixation of -pocalypse is no respecter of etymology. The pre-liberation base word, apocalypse, comes from Greek ἀπό "off" + καλύπτειν "to cover", meaning "revelation" (literally "uncovering" or "disclosure"). As a proper noun, Apocalypse refers (as the OED explains) to "The 'revelation' of the future granted to St. John in the isle of Patmos", or "The book of the New Testament in which this is recorded". And because this book describes "the Second Coming of Christ and ultimate destruction of the world", apocalypse has acquired a figurative sense "a disaster resulting in drastic, irreversible damage to human society or the environment, esp. on a global scale; a cataclysm".
Many people now know only this figurative sense — or rather its "weakened use" to describe quite local disasters, as is this OED example:
1980 Bookseller 26 Jan. 316/2 Although most people are saddened by the enforced abandonment of some titles, no one is prepared to interpret it as the publishers' apocalypse.
Or, turning back to sports, this example from Matthew Callan, "The Mets Narratives: Apocalypse or Benny Hill", 6/20/2011:
To the media, a story that does not bode well for the Mets, no matter how flimsy the story's basis, must be true. The question then becomes not to investigate the story, but to create nightmare scenarios and wonder just how apocalyptic and/or hilarious the result will be.
And in general, the extension from -pocalypse to -pocalyptic is spotty at best: idolpocalypse/*idolpocalyptic, weinerpocalypse/*weinerpocalyptic, newtpocalypse/*newtpocalyptic, palinpocalypse/*palinpocalyptic, bushpocalypse/*bushpocalyptic, lebronpocalypse/*lebronpocalyptic, etc.
The only cases I've found so far where -pocalypse has a -pocalyptic counterpart are snowpocalypse/snowpocalyptic and teapocalypse/teapocalyptic. I leave it to others to determine whether overall frequency is an adequate explanation.
[It's worth noting that politics is a big source of libfix coinages — Mitt Rommey's crop from the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign were discussed here ("Mittmentum", "Mitt-nertia", "Mitt-sheviks", "Mitt-ptonite", "Mittstasis", "Mittsanity", "Mittplosion", etc.). No doubt there will be more this season.]