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On Sat, 3 May 2008 02:10:35 -0400, Carl Banks <[log in to unmask]> 
wrote:
>[snip]
>I think a better example than "ish" is "ism".  As in, "I will not
>tolerate racism, sexism, ageism, or any other isms".

Dang! I logged on this morning eager to say that, but you beat me to it.

>The fact that "ism" can be pluralized, but that you can't normally
>pluralize words with the -ism suffix, indicates that its usage here is
>as a separate word, and not a suffix with an elided base.
>
>I believe the reason "ism" was able to break free is that English
>speakers tend to parse -ism words as compound words, since -ism is added
>to a noun and results in a noun.  They think of "ism" as a word roughly
>meaning "focus".  Compare the above to the following hypothetical
>sentence:  "I will not tolerate racefocus, sexfocus, agefocus, or any
>other focuses."  See?  It's "right" to parse it as a compound in one
>case, "wrong" in the other, but there's really not much qualitative
>difference between the two.

Well, that's better-said than I probably would have said it.

>Of course what really proves "ism" is a word is it has started serving
>as the root for other words: words such as "ismism", the belief in
>(over)emphasizing isms.

Or "ismish".  But has anyone ever heard "ishism"?

>Carl Banks

Thanks, Carl.