Suffering Suffixes, Batman

One of the features of working from home is that, if you aren't careful, you can suddenly find that you haven't been outside for several days. In fact, if you disregard a trip to the end of the drive to fetch the wheely bin, or across the garden to feed the goldfish, I probably haven't been outside for a month. I suppose this is why my wife, when she gets home from work each day, feels she has to appraise me of the current weather conditions.

Usually this is something along the lines of "Wow, it's been scorching today!" or "Gosh, it's parky enough to freeze your tabs off!" (tip for those not familiar with the Derbyshire dialect: "parky" = "cold", "tabs" = "ears"). However, last week she caught me by suprise by explaining that "It's rather Autumnal, even Wintery". Probably it's my rather weird fascination with words that set me off wondering why it wasn't "Autumny and Wintery", or even "Autumnal and Winteral". OK, so we also say "Summery", but "Springy" doesn't seem right. And, of course, I soon moved on to wondering if Americans say "Fally" or "Fallal". I'll take a guess that they end up with one of the poor relations in the world of words (ones that have to use a hyphen) with "Fall-like", just as we say "Spring-like".

Note: I just had a reply from a reader in the US North West who says that the only words they use for "Fall" are "rainy", "misty", "stormy", and "cloudy". I guess that agrees with my own experience of all the trips I've made there, including a few in "Summer".

The suffix "al" comes from Latin, and means "having the character of". So Autumnal is obvious. But what about "lateral". Assuming the rules for the "al" prefix, it means "having the character of being late or later" (or, possibly, "dead"), whereas I've always assumed it meant something to do with sideways movement or thinking outside the box. Maybe I need to splash out $125 to buy Gary Miller's book "Latin Suffixal Derivatives in English: and Their Indo-European Ancestry". It sounds like a fascinating bedtime read. Though a more compact (and less expensive) option is the useful list of suffixes at This even includes a page full of rules to apply when deciding how to add different suffixes to words, depending on the number of syllables and the final letter(s).

So, coming back to my occasional trips outdoors, why do I have a "wheely" bin instead of a "wheelal" bin or even a "wheelive" bin. The suffix "y" is supposedly of Anglo Saxon (and Greek) origin and means "having the quality of" or "somewhat like". Pretty much the equivalent of the "al" suffix, which also means "suitable for". The "ive" suffix means much the same, but - like "al" - derives from Latin. What I really have, however, is a "wheelable" or "wheelible" bin, using one of the Latin suffixes that means "capable of being (wheeled)". Is it any wonder that people find English a difficult language to learn? Though I suppose the definitive indication of this is "Ghoti" (see

Perhaps I can make the code samples in the technical documentation I create more interesting by applying descriptive suffixes? The "ory" suffix means "place for" (as in "repository"), so my names for variables that hold references to things could easily be customerAccountory and someTemporaryStringory. And a class that extends the Product base class could be the Productive class. That should impress the performance testing guys.

Or maybe I could even suggest to the .NET Framework team that they explore the possibility of suffixing variable types for upcoming new language extensions. An object that can easily be converted to a collection of characters should obviously be defined as of type Stringable, and something that's almost (but not quite) a whole number could be Intergeral, Intergeric, Intergerous ("characterized by"), or just Intergery.

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