Should ‘Halloween’ be penalized for cutting?, by Rob Kyff

I don’t mean to sell “Halloween” short, but this word provides a good example of a linguistic process called “cutting”. The word “Halloween” is short for “All Hallow Even”, which, in turn, is short for “All Hallowmass Evening”.

The language, unlike football, imposes no penalty for cutting, although the trampling of lawns on Halloween (often condensed to “trampoleen”) can sometimes cost a quarter 15 yards.

The technical term for cutting the beginnings of words is “apharesis”. Apharesis releases headless horsemen such as (tel)phone, (earth)quake, (alli)gator, (with)drawing room, (kanga)roo, and (o)possum, as well as newer terms such as za (pizza ), rents (parents), jects (housing projects) and the nicknames Topher (Christopher) and Liam (William).

The term for breaking the END of words is “apocope”. It is apocope which cuts off the tail of the chimpanzee (anzé), of the hippopotamus (potamus) and of the rhinoceros (cerus) and produces a photo (graphic), an obituary, a limousine (factory), a fan (atic) and a zoo (logical garden).

More recent examples of apocope include cred (credibility), bro (brother), guac (guacamole), app (application), dis (disrespect), totes (totally), fam (family), and cray (crazy).

Some words burn their candles at both ends, as in flu (influenza), frigo (refrigerator) and Liz (Elizabeth). And sometimes a word can be decapitated OR detailed, like when people call a magazine a “mag” or a “zine”.

Throughout history, the British have kept a particularly rigid top clip, boldly cutting “St. Audrey’s” into “tawdry”, “Magdalene” into “maudlin”, “halfpennyworth” into “haypth” and the king’s head Charles I in a bucket, but not before nicknaming him “Chas”.

Speaking of head games, it’s trick-or-treat time. Check if you know the long version of each excerpt:

No. 1: cello; No. 2: crowd; No. 3: melee; No. 4: defend; No. 5: goodbye; No. 6: fortnight; No. 7: squire; no. 8: bus; No. 9: piano; No. 10: gaiters

No. 11: berth; #12; pram; No. 13: suburbs; No. 14: abs; No. 15: spy; No. 16: cabin; No. 17: pants; No. 18: prom; no. 19: cinema; No. 20: rep (four possible meanings!)


No. 1: cello; No. 2: mobile vulgus; no. 3: brawl; No. 4: defend; No. 5: God-be-with-you; No. 6: fourteen nights; No. 7: squire; No. 8: omnibus; No. 9: pianoforte; #10: Splatter

No. 11: buncombe; No. 12: pram; No. 13: suburb; no. 14: abs; No. 15: spy; No. 16: convertible (or cabernet); No. 17: pants; no. 18: promenade; no. 19: cinematograph; No. 20: reputation, repetition, representative, repertoire

And may you all have a great All Hallowmass night!

Rob Kyff, professor and writer in West Hartford, Connecticut, invites your linguistic observations. His book, “Mark My Words,” is available for $9.99 on Email your abuse and abuse reports, along with examples of good writing, to [email protected] or by mail to Rob Kyff, Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA, 90254.

Photo credit: webandi on Pixabay