Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Celebu-Rama

In the American Dialect Society's journal American Speech, Volume 3, Number 83, from Fall 2008, I came upon a pair of interesting articles on the popularity of the prefix Celebu.

The first of the two articles, "Paris Hilton, Brenda Frazier, Blogs, and the Proliferation of Celebu-," by David West Brown of the University of Michigan, traces the origin of the prefix to its first appearance in the nonce word Celebutante, coined not recently, but by Walter Winchell in 1939. He was writing about the coming-out party of banking heiress Brenda Frazier, who, he wrote, "inspires a new 1-word description: Celebutante."

Since the 1930s, explains Brown, celebutante receded into the background of the American language, reappearing in the 1980s to refer to club kids, but only gaining prominence thanks to the blogosphere and Paris Hilton. 2003 seems to be celebutante's tipping point, when Gawker editor Elizabeth Spiers listed it among her "Current obsessions/topics of interest."


Source: American Speech

"Thus," writes Brown, "when Hilton and Richie's television show, The Simple Life, debuted on the Fox network on December 2, 2003...celebutante was already circulating in the blog lexicon. The term quickly became associated with her, and its frequency of use mushroomed."

That mushrooming is displayed in the second article from the journal, "Celebu- Word List: An Interesting Foray into Calculating Relevance," by David K. Barnhart of Lexik House Publishers. He begins, "The combining form of celebu-, as in celebutard, celebu-chef, and celebuspawn, to name but a few, came to the attention of the New Words Committee of the American Dialect Society during its deliberations for Word of the Year for 2007."

First of all, how exciting is it that there is such a thing as a New Words Committee and that they've been deliberating on celebutard? Here then, for your reading pleasure, is a handful of celebu- words, provided by Mr. Barnhart:



The question now is, with the yunnipocalypse upon us and the party over, will celebu- keep spawning? Or will it return to the bottom drawer of the cultural filing cabinet, to be dusted off and trotted out again when the new Paris Hiltons of the future rise from the ashes?

5 comments:

EV Grieve said...

Don't be such a celebudowner!

Despite the party being over, this term will live on. Of course, I still say "Barf me out" and "Tubular."

Great find on the essay.

Anonymous said...

My own personal favorite, that I use to describe thugish paparazzi: thugarazzi.

Mad Texter said...

What a great post! I guess we really do re-learn somthing new every day. And the "New Words Committee"? That real pip.

hntrnyc said...

"In the American Dialect Society's journal American Speech, Volume 3, Number 83, from Fall 2008, I came upon a pair of interesting articles on the popularity of the prefix Celebu."
Jeremiah, the fact that you are aware of such a publication makes me an even bigger fan.
To use an antiquated parlance from a former decade, "I am not worthy".
Brilliant stuff.

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks hntrnyc--but don't give me too much credit. i only stumbled upon it from googling, i believe it was, "celebu-designer."