2016—the year that was ’Pocalypse Now!
It started in January with the “Rockalypse“, a live rock band showdown in Montreal, Quebec, and in February there was a predicted “appocalypse” due to artificial intelligence. In March the feared “beepocalypse” was reportedly postponed.
All year, in fact, one sort of “pocalypse” followed after another—so much so that I am declaring 2016 to have been the year of ’Pocalypse Now!
Actually a ’pocalypse now and again and again and again
In May the Telegraph film critic Tim Robey took to Twitter in order to tweet that the Canadian actor Ryan Gosling’s film Lost River was a “crapocalypse”, whatever that means.
And the November election in the United States was trumpeted by media around the world as a total “Trumpocalypse“!
Finally, in the first weeks of December, Vancouver, B.C. was hit by a veritable “snowpocalypse“. Last week there was a report concerning California’s drought-related “treepocalypse“. And this week the smog in the north of China was called that country’s latest “airpocalyse”.
And at any time of the year, someone somewhere was writing about the risk of a “datapocalypse”
The end of the world as Twitter knew it at least
So why the sudden plethora of ’pocalyptic pronouncements?
I would principally credit Twitter users, who constantly pair words with ’pocalypse in order to create dramatic new hashtags with which to label their Tweets.
As you may or may not know, Twitter automatically turns any unspaced phrase preceded by a hash (#) character into a clickable search link called a hashtag. Clicking a hashtag like #flopocalypse” in a Tweet will find any and all Tweets that contain this same hashtag.
It is no exaggeration to say that the second any topic becomes timely—if it at all lends itself to such treatment—Twitter users will munge it together with “pocalypse” in order to make a new hashtag.
In a cycle that has repeatedly compounded itself, this Twitter-ism has been picked up by a Twitter-obsessed media, which has only served to further embed the practice of creating ’pocalypses deeper in social media and around and around, until it has become one of the most over-used cliches of 2016.
The word of the year isn’t even a word
By itself, “pocalypse” is just a meaningless word fragment—what linguistic types apparently call a morpheme.
When you join a word, like “tree” to “pocalypse”, in order to create “treepocalypse”, the result probably cannot be called a compound word because part of it is only a fragment. More likely it is a portmanteu, which is a fusing of words and/or their sounds.
Things that inquiring minds want to
Over the decades both “snowpocalypse” and “snowmageddon” have probably been used hundreds if not thousands of times across North America. In one case a massive “snowpocalypse” predicted for New York City in 2015 actually became a “nopocalypse” when the snow failed to materialize.
And while “snowpocalypse” and “snowmageddon” have both been used dozens of times here in the Pacific Northwest to refer to unusually heavy dumps of snow, there is nothing to suggest what their relative place in the hierarchy of such hyperbole is.
I mean, is “snowmageddon” a step beyond or before a “snowpocalypse”? This is an important question.
Furthermore, it may or may not be an unfortunate oversight on the part of the Pacific Northwest vocabulary but there does not appear to be any over-the-top End Times-tinged adjectives in common usage for heavy rain—beyond those hoary old Biblical chestnuts “deluge” and “flood”.
I can understand why neither “rainpocalypse” nor “precipocalypse” has caught on—they do not exactly roll off the tongue after all.
But I cannot, for the life of me, fathom why the perfectly wonderful “waterdämmerung” has never (before) been employed in English usage—ever—so far as my Internet searches can determine. Go figure. Click the image to enlarge.