Saturday, February 17, 2007

-o nouns in English

Here's a little question that Mr. Verb is unable to help me with, so I'll just record it here. (Actually, his reaction was more like "What? Who do I look like to you, Mr. Noun?" Never seen anybody get so sensitive over lexical categories. Sheesh.)

Anyways, somebody recently emailed me about doing a preso. I know this as a hip tech term, what young people in the computer industry would say. (The person who used it is such a person, in fact.) What struck me was how diverse -o nouns in English are. They're often negative (weirdo, psycho, etc.) in American English and I know that Australian English has lots of them as slang, like bizzo for 'business'. And on and on …

But what's preso doing hanging out there all by itself? I can't come up with other recent (I can't find evidence that this is older) words that pattern with it, semantically or in terms of who uses them, etc.

6 comments:

Sir Adjective said...

Right, like the Verbs are any better than the Nouns? Trust me, shake the Verb family trees and it'll rain Nouns on you.

Stumblerette said...

According to the OED, "The use of the suffix is widespread in English-speaking countries and is especially associated with Australia." Some more examples (not all negative) are kiddo, daddy-o, socko (that one was new to me).

Nancy said...

My corporate clients use "preso" all the time, as well as "reco" to mean "recommendation." But I've never heard those abbreviations in spoken language; they seem to be written forms only.

Joe said...

Hmm, that's cool. I've seen 'reco' but never heard it. But I asked the person who emailed me about this to be sure 'preso' was pronounced with [z] (not [s] and he said he'd always heard it with [z]. I've only heard and seen it a few times, but I have heard it ... and I'm not on the coast (though I'd like to be, from time to time!) or dealing with computer/tech stuff.

Ben Zimmer said...

Let's not forget illo for illustration, pretty common in the publishing industry.

By the way, the earliest attested -o noun that I'm aware of is wino, from 1915. Pinko has been dated to 1925, and wacko to 1938.

Nancy said...

I just received an e-mail in which "convo" was used to mean "conversation." First sighting for me.