So I’m back from digital darkness with a jumble of notes and drafts. I’d lost the thread of this blog – until our cat had a brushgasm.

I’m sure you know what that is: a paroxysm of almost unbearable delight at having his coat brushed. The word furgasm also came to mind, immediately followed by purrgasm.

Who knows when –gasm was first detached from ‘orgasm’ and tacked on to other words to give us wealthgasms, ragegasms, droolgasms, shoegasms, nerdgasms… and a whole lot more  Oh, and wordgasms and writegasms, of course.

The internet is awash with them. There’s yarngasm, “a weekly podcast about knitting and making things.” There’s, “a place to help you find your way to feel-good work.” And speaks for itself.

Interestingly, the word ‘orgasm’ has been divided in the ‘wrong’ place, as if it were composed of or- and -gasm. This is not a judgement, just a fascinating example of what English can do (and, um, a way of showing off my classical knowledge). The original Greek word ‘orgasmos’ (which came to us via New Latin) could not be divided in this way, as ‘org-’ was the root and ‘asmos’ the suffix (also seen in sarcasm, spasm, phantasm)

Here’s the etymology:

The Greek word orgasmos orginally meant ‘excitement, swelling,’ from the verb organ ‘be in heat, become ripe for, literally ‘to swell, be excited.’ It’s related to orge ‘impulse, excitement, anger,’ from the Proto-Indo-European root *wrog- ‘to burgeon, swell with strength’ (akin to Sanskrit ūrjā ‘nourishment, sap, vigor’ and Old Irish ferc, ferg  ‘anger.’)

In many places, including Wiktionary above, these fun new words are described as ‘suffixed’ with –gasm.

But I don’t think – gasm is a suffix. A suffix is a bit you add on to an existing word to form a new one, changing its word class or lexical category. For example, the suffix –ness turns an adjective (happy) into a noun (happiness).

This is a different process.

Like -athon, the detached word fragment  -gasm does not change the lexical category of the word it’s attached to, but it does add new meaning. It combines with an existing word to make a new compound (as in tea + pot = teapot).

What’s more, you can ‘infix’ it: “So to round off this ‘Brain Tickler’ chapter let’s do this fun-gasm-tastic technique.” (from a book on Neurolinguistic Programming).

And I’ve just discovered the stand-alone:

A gasm, according to the Urban Dictionary, is “An exceedingly cool guy who makes girls orgasm by the wink of an eye.”

I was going to leave you with this wonderful weathergasm but at the last moment I discovered what just has to be my favourite: the gasmgasm. This is when you are so thrilled about the possibility of having an orgasm, you actually have an orgasm.

The possibilities are endless, so make up your own and leave them along with your favourites in the comments, where they will be most welcome.

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