AUTHOR’S NOTE: This year’s theme is “accentuate the positive”– this post may or may not adhere to that theme.
It’s tempting to shove all ambient turmoil into the strange 365-day-period we just experienced. Tempting to think the new year might just make everything a bit better by sheer virtue of the new number at the end of typed dates. But we all know back to normal is cancelled. Our global and domestic situations will continue to percolate and metastasize in new ways that will test our tolerance for both surprise and angst. So it’s probably a good time to ask:
What’s the plural of apocalypse?
The answer is apocalypses, but that isn’t fun. Please banish this fact from your brain. Now pour yourself a beverage and bear with me as I use this prompt to deliver a eulogy for the year everyone hated.
Off the bat, I see multiple linguistic options. I’d like to quickly run you through them: please consider me your tour guide on this choose-your-own-semantic adventure.
We could argue apocalypse falls under the same grammatical umbrella as moose, where the singular form also constitutes the plural. Given the general drama of apocalypse, this option is appealing.
Example usage: “We’ve had a lot of apocalypse this year–remember when the entire continent of Australia was on fire and pop stars started getting mullets again?”
Stick with what works—our etymology is Greek, so what about apocalyae? I’d argue the biggest strength here is the connotation of tragedy. Feels apropos!
Example usage: “While Dr. Strangelove (1964) focuses on the threat of nuclear warfare, as there is only one Cold War, this film does not qualify as apocalyae cinema. However, Cats (2019) certainly meets the criteria.”
Staying in Greece, apocalypse comes from “apokaluptein,” meaning reveal or uncover. So despite its current fatalistic definition, apocalypse has a backstory with a lot less finality. To reflect this nuance, we could get fancy and opt for apocEllipsis—sounds like the singular, but by tacking on ellipsis, the most ominous and uncertain punctuation in the English language, we allow ourselves to consider possible post-apocalypses. I acknowledge this one is a stretch, but I stand by it.
Example usage: “Things are so amorphous and strange that I feel like I can’t plan or predict anything. This year has been one big apocEllipsis marked only by pounds gained and shows binged.”
We could just call a group of apocalypses a 2020. Treat apocalypse like a type of wild animal that occasionally gathers en masse. Like a murder of crows, a parliament of owls, or a pandemonium of parrots. Why do birds get all the good collective nouns? Please do not ask me, I’m not a scientist.
Example usage: “That relationship was a total 2020. He never did the dishes, he ate my cat, and then he tried to sue me for defamation.”
Now that you’ve met our lovely contestants, please take a moment to vote in the comments or propose your own entry. I will submit the results to the Oxford Dictionary, and I expect they’ll formalize the change within the year.
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