Saturday, October 25, 2008


Guest post from Mark Louden, who will join Team Verb.
In a graduate class this semester titled Spoken German, in a section devoted to the productivity of compounding in German, we were discussing the status of English nominal compounds that make use of morphemes derived from German, "über/uber" being one relatively well known one, but also "fest" (as in gabfest, slugfest, etc.) and "nazi" (examples: grammar nazi, feminazi, parking nazi, and Soup Nazi). The morphological status of these is somewhere between bound and free: following my intuitions, I couldn't use "fest" or "nazi" in isolation (as opposed to "Nazi", of course, as in a "member of the National Socialist Party). In the text we were reading, such word-parts are described as affixoids, something between a word and an affix. In any case, one sharp student mentioned reading in the Madison paper about an upcoming Trucktoberfest. That got me to googling, and I found about 150 different compounds with "toberfest", as well as this piece by journalist Brent Batten that appeared in the Naples (FL) News on October 6, 2005.

"October Festers with Events Bent on Fun Puns"

Personally, I blame Prince Ludwig of Bavaria.

You'll find some people who blame album-oriented FM radio stations.

But I blame Prince Ludwig of Bavaria.

If he hadn't been so all-fired happy about his marriage to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on Oct. 12, 1810, he wouldn't have commissioned a party for all the people of Munich. And that party wouldn't have evolved into a monthlong celebration known as Octoberfest.

And then radio stations wouldn't have latched on and started calling every little promotion occurring in the 10th month of the year "Rocktoberfest." And then each person, association, organization and business throughout society wouldn't have taken to naming every event taking place in October "Whatevertoberfest."

The misuse of "toberfest" has reached saturation levels.

Although it all began innocuously enough, with Rocktoberfest and the Halloween-linked Shocktoberfest, things have gone well beyond the constraints of rhyme and reason.

In America you can now find Orktoberfest, Oakstoberfest, Oinktoberfest and Oztoberfest.

There's Gothtoberfest, Lawtoberfest, Hopetoberfest, Swaptoberfest, Moustachetoberfest and Puketoberfest.

Animal lovers have glommed onto the toberfest craze, introducing Dogtoberfest, Barktoberfest, Hogtoberfest, Oxtoberfest, Ottertoberfest and Southwest Florida's very own Skunktoberfest, in celebration of the elusive skunk ape.

Skunktoberfest shouldn't be confused with Crunktoberfest, a concert sponsored by a hip-hop radio station in Denver.

Not that the hip-hop genre is the only one to challenge rock's claim on the toberfest name. There's Jazztoberfest, Popstoberfest and Bluestoberfest.

Unwilling to limit themselves to the fall, lovers of German music in Fairfax, Va., put together Augtoberfest, a summertime oomp-pah band concert.

Although that is hardly the most egregious affront to the seasonal limits on a toberfest. Numerous groups have dubbed their spring carnivals Maytoberfest.

In addition to the aforementioned Skunktoberfest, Florida is home to some of the more unique toberfests you'll find. Like the Choctoberfest held at the Paradise Lakes Resort near Land O' Lakes. You wouldn't be surprised to find the festival centered upon chocolate. You might be surprised to find the celebrants naked. Paradise Lakes is a clothing optional resort.

The tide of toberfests is overwhelming. There's no sense in railing against the inelegant, like Flytoberfest, Bugtoberfest, Biketoberfest, Paintoberfest and Finstoberfest. Or the profane, $#@!toberfest and *&%#toberfest.

Better to grudgingly acknowledge clever appellations such a group of beer stein collectors' Ahhhtoberfest and an Iowa horsetrack's Tic Tac Toberfest.

And maybe even join in the fun, applying the toberfest concept to this month's local happenings.

The high school scheduling fiasco: Blocktoberfest. Live-aboard boaters being chased from their slips: Docktoberfest.

And a newspaper column ridiculing the phenomenon: Mocktoberfest.

Don't blame me. Blame Prince Ludwig of Bavaria.
Most of the "-toberfest" compounds I found have a phonological basis (using monosyllables, often resembling [ak]), including a popular one this month: Baracktoberfest. (Image from here.)

Some examples push the phonological envelope (for my ear/brain at least), e.g., Fair Oaks'Toberfest an annual event in a Sacramento suburb. Others are more semantically based, with a connection to beer and its consumption (Drunktoberfest, Puketoberfest, Knock'd toberfest); Halloween (Shocktoberfest); other months (Febtoberfest, Novemberfest); dogs (Barktoberfest, Dachtoberfest); and miscellanenous other gatherings taking place in October: Croptoberfest (scrapbooking); Mopar-toberfest (auto parts sale); Awesome-toberfest; AAAAAR-toberfest (a "pirate-themed bar event" in New Bethelem, PA); Plain ol' boring-toberfest ... .


Adam Ussishkin said...

All of this is totally fascinating, but for me the highlight is the word "affixoid" - I am SO going to use that (with proper acknowledgement, of course)! Thank you!

The Ridger, FCD said...

It's always baffled me that these are -toberfests instead of -oberfests. (uberfests?) But I suppose it's easier to incorporate the -T as -T; not many English words end in -ockt as opposed to -ock ...

The Ridger, FCD said...

PS - the capcha was "ingicide". Is that the new term for g-dropping?

Unknown said...

Thanks for the recognition and the plug. We worked hard to create a name that would push the phonological boundaries...

Founder, Fair Oaks'toberfest
An Oktoberfest for brewfest lovers by brewfest lovers.

Anonymous said...

I didn't initially get the Baracktoberfest of the image, as it seemed like not a very good instance of this -toberfest thing, and it never occurred to me why, until I read this:

Most of the "-toberfest" compounds I found have a phonological basis (using monosyllables, often resembling [ak])

Now, the difference isn't in that Australians pronounce Barack differently - it's still [bəɹa:k] for us - the difference is that we pronounce it [ok]tober, not [ak]tober. Most of the others work fine because the same difference hold between them, like [mok] for 'mock' as opposed to [mak].

Do podeans celebrate Movember?

Mariah said...

Umm...dear ridger, it's not baffling at all. The syllable boundary is between the /k/ and /t/ for very systematic reasons. The rule is: "have onset" for a syllable. Since kt can't start a syllable in english, it breaks into Ok.tober.fest
Erego, we drop the Ok, and add in other words as puns.

Anonymous said...

How about Woktoberfest - a celebration of Asian foods?