Originally published Dec 10, 2011
The Name Inspector has been thinkifying about naming fads lately. For example, there was that post a while back about names ending with the word vine. One trend that naggifies at him every day, though, is the gratuitous use of the suffix –ify. This one is bound to worsify before it gets bett…OK, he’s done with the stupid sarcastic examples now. You’ve seen these names all over the place, right? Here’s a little list:
There are lots of English verbs that end with the Latin-derived suffix –ify. In most of them, the main part of the word, or the base, is an adjective. Usually the resulting word means ‘to make (adjective)’–so intensify means to make something intense, purify means to make something pure, and so forth. In some of these words, the base is a noun, and the meaning is roughly ‘to make into (noun)’–so personify means to make something into a person (at least imaginatively), mummify means to make someone into a mummy, and zombify means to make someone into a zombie. Sometimes the meanings are a little more complicated. Yuppify doesn’t mean to make someone into a yuppy, but rather to make something (usually a neighborhood) more full of yuppies or more appealing to them. (For you youngsters out there, yuppie is a word, short for “young urban professional”, that we oldsters used derisively back in the 1980s when we were secretly aspiring to be yuppies ourselves). Sometimes the base of an –ify word is a twist on an existing word, as in clarify, horrify, and terrify, or it’s a Latin root that doesn’t stand on its own as a word but that’s related to familiar words, as in verify, rectify, and unify.
Despite these complications, one thing you can say about all these words is that the bases are simple and usually don’t carry any other suffixes before the –ify ending. Names using the suffix are another story:
Here we have the –ify ending attached to the compound noun playlist, the nounified verb-particle combination backup, the plural noun links, and, inexplicably, a base made out of zen + s (maybe this is supposed to be a blend of zen and densify). Then we even have the –ify ending redundantly added to verb bases:
You don’t find –ify attached to verbs in natural English, because the point of the –ify ending is to make a verb out of a different kind of word. The only exception The Name Inspector has thought of is preachify, and he’s willing to wager that’s a tongue-in-cheek word, based on the similar word speechify, that’s meant to illustrate the kind artificially puffed-up speaking style it refers to.
The Name Inspector fears that this approach to namifying has gotten out of hand. When will the madness stopify?
Update 7/2/13: A while back The Name Inspector created a Pinterest board called the Wall of Namifying, where you can see 80+ examples of the namifying trend.