This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Nuts and Bolts: the insufficient suffix.

A beautiful thing is the aster:

File:Michaelmas daisy (Aster lanceolatus x novi-belgii) - - 1522705.jpg
                              photo: Rod Allday

Well, it's a beautiful thing until the slugs get it, anyway.

However beautiful an aster may be, though, you wouldn't want one attached to your rear end.

Aster as a separate word is the Latin for star, which is rather nice. If, however, aster is stuck onto the back of another word it means poor imitation of a.

The commonest example is poetaster, which means a poor imitation of a poet. But, just to prove that lovers of long words aren't necessarily the kindest people, also to be found are medicasters, grammaticasters (ouch!) politicasters, witticasters (people who think they're funny), philosophasters, criticasters, and theologasters.

I don't think there's a word artaster, but surely, surely that should be the commonest word of them all.

Word To Understand Today: one ending in aster

Even suffixes are subject to fashion. Nowadays every scandal is something-gate, and in the early 1800s there was a trend for conflicts to be something-loo. Aster as a suffix got fashionable in the 1600s. Milton used politicaster, and the playwrights Ben Jonson, John Marston, and Thomas Dekker managed to have a long quarrel that ended in the production of Jonson's play The Poetaster in 1601.


  1. Poor aster.
    Surely they (whoever they are!) could've coined a different word.
    Maybe pseudopoet? Malopoet? Dysopoet?
    Obviously I can do no better!
    Poor aster!

  2. I can just imagine the sort of poems a dysopoet would write!
    "Twig fingers, flesh-lost, reaching, fruitless..." though perhaps even more dreadful might be the mellowpoet: "The cheery birds were singing their sweet lullabies to me..."
    Excuse me. I think I might be going to be ill...

  3. :)
    Maybe a mellowpoet wouldn't work, but what about a mellowbrat or the like?!

  4. Mellowbrat is a hugely promising word, Jingles. I could imagine a story about a kid so sweet and lovely he drives everyone insane.
    The only trouble is that I doubt he'd survive the first chapter.