Monday, November 16, 2009

Soon The Moon Will Rise at Noon

English is beloved by language lovers everywhere for its lexical richness, a result of its heritage as an amalgam of both Romance and Germanic words. It may not have the elan of French or the gusto of Italian, but no language compares to English in terms of the depth of its vocabulary.

Like other Indo-European languages, English relies on a large supply of prefixes, suffixes, and other units of speech to convey meaning. Most suffixes are quite flexible, and are used by English speakers to coin new words (think Kafkaesque, doable). This makes English almost infinitely expandable, and enables anyone to contribute neologisms to the lexicon.

My topic of discussion today is one suffix in particular: "-oon."

Oon may be my favorite suffix, as its appendage makes any word instantly more fun. What's more exciting, a bar or a saloon? Who would you rather meet, a magnate or a tycoon? Which is a better insult, idiot or buffoon? (The list goes on--bass vs. bassoon, storm/monsoon, etc.) And who doesn't like cartoons?

Oon words are fun on the tongue (or, more precisely, the lips) and also fun to write. I remember the first time I learned about the people known as Walloons who live on the border of Belgium and France. What a fantastic name, I thought! I think I imagined Walloons as jolly, playful people, possibly combining the concepts of "walrus" and "balloon" in my head.

Today my enjoyment of the suffix is no less, and I look forward to English adding more oony words in the years to come.


  1. You were right the first time- it's more fun on the tongue. "Oon" contains neither sibilants nor plosives and can therefore be said without using the lips at all. The "en" sound at the end is made by pressing the tongue to the roof of the mouth near the teeth.

  2. Colin! My language buddy.

    When I make the sound, I purse my lips together...and I guess the "n" sound is kind of a palatal nasal or something? My phonological knowledge has faded...How's Tex?


  4. The title of this shoulda been "Buffoon Goon Spoons for Poon"


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.