Wandering Among Words No 9: Exclamation
I came across an interesting neologism the other day which, as usual, had me musing — and I thought, again as usual, I would share them with you.
Here it is, courtesy of the popular BBC TV panel show QI and its busy QI elves on Twitter: Bangorrhea.
Hint: it’s not a kind of flightless bird from the town in North Wales or its counterpart in County Down, Northern Ireland.
So, this turns out to be a combination of bang, slang for an exclamation mark, plus the final element found in diarrhea or diarrhoia, defined by the Online Etymology Dictionary as “morbid frequent evacuation of the bowels. ” Coined many, many years ago by Hippocrates, it literally means “a flowing through”.
Hence bangorrhea would be something like this 👉 !!!!! Inelegant, admittedly, but so is its overuse.
Now, this neologism didn’t meet the approval of all the twitterati:
This made me laugh (haha!!) as, of course, bangorrhea is demonstrably not a portmanteau word (“word blending the sound of two different words”), as invented by Lewis Carroll’s Humpty-Dumpty:
“Well, ‘slithy’ means “lithe and slimy” and ‘mimsy’ is “flimsy and miserable”. You see it’s like a portmanteau—there are two meanings packed up into one word.”
Modern examples of portmanteau words that are usually cited are motel and brunch and, possibly, Brexit. Bangorrhea decidedly doesn’t fit this mould.
The Latin root of ‘exclamation’, by the way, is clamare, to shout, cry or call. Hence ‘clamour’ and ‘claim’. Related to clamare is the Old English hlōwan, to low or moo like a cow. Food for thought!
Now, given that one of the meanings of bang — there are several, some more rude than others — is for an exclamation mark (¡En espanol there are two!), I imagine that as an onomatopoeic word it requires little further explanation. As a punctuation mark the origins of the bang are a little more obscure, however. It’s become very familiar from its regular appearance in comic books and other popular culture: an apogee was its prominence in Roy Lichtenstein’s Whaam! (1963), now in the Tate.
In European road signs the red triangle with a bang in the middle indicates a hazard ahead—perhaps a warning of the possibility of vehicle accidents involving, er, bangs.
Finally, we’re highly likely to come across a surfeit of exclamations—a bangorrhea—on social media. The more the merrier!! Is it true women use them more than men, as I’ve seen claimed? Or is it related to our emotions, whether anger or excitement, anxiety or enthusiasm, regardless of gender? Is it commoner on Facebook or Instagram, on Twitter or blogs? You be the judge!!!