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What Does the Exploitation Film Genre Have to do with Watergate? An Exploration of Libfixes

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A few weeks ago, we discussed the -core suffix in relation to the word mumblecore. Today we’re going to take a look at another robust suffix born on the silver screen, -sploitation.

While the term mumblecore stuck, another name suggested for this slow-paced genre didn’t quite catch on: ennuisploitation. The ennui element comes from the French word meaning “boredom,” though the more interesting part of the word is -sploitation. This final element nods to a larger cinematic category called “exploitation films.”

A brief history of exploitation films: this low-budget genre began in the late 1960s and early ’70s featuring films lacking moral value, often with high levels of violence and sex appeal. It grew out of the tradition of B-movies, which were cheaply filmed productions from the 1940s and ’50s, created purely to accompany high-budget films on double billings. Exploitation films, like B-movies, were money-making operations rather than artistic endeavors. However, some of these film concepts are so outrageous that they’ve garnered cult followings. Subgenres of exploitation films include sexploitation and blaxploitation. There’s even Canuxploitation and Britsploitation, which are exploitation films set in Canada and the UK, respectively. Perhaps the oddest subgenre is nunsploitation: this features stories of perverse and corrupt nuns set in the Middle Ages.

The list of subgenres goes on and on, maybe because of how easy it is to tack -sploitation, or in some cases -xploitation and -exploitatation, on to the end of a word. This kind of combining form is called a “libfix.” This term itself is a portmanteau of “lib(erated)” + “(af)fix,” and was coined by linguist Arnold Zwicky. Other examples of libfixes include -gate, which is extracted, or liberated, from the word Watergate, and is now added on to words to implicate a scandal (Mileygate might be used to describe the recent twerking incident), and -zilla, which can be added on to a word to describe a monster, i.e., Bridezillas. Libfixes are more pliable than your traditional affix, and they often evoke a specific cultural reference or moment in history.

While ennuisploitation has been overshadowed by the more prominent mumblecore, from a cinematic and linguistic perspective it’s a very appropriate term. Perhaps film and language buffs will champion this forgotten genre name as mumblecore gets more buzz and writers and speakers crave more variation in their language.

13 Comments

  1. Sanjsy -  March 2, 2014 - 4:19 am

    What about the word “tinseltown”. Is it cinematic? And how did the word come about?

    Reply
  2. Doogeedu -  October 17, 2013 - 6:09 pm

    I think its great that we have all these new libfixes or whatever you want to call them. YOLO

    Reply
  3. Mark -  October 14, 2013 - 9:23 pm

    I never knew the word for it, but now I can describe -gate as my most loathed libfix ever! My skin crawls every time some talking head uses it as if they’ve come up with something clever.

    -licious (from delicious) is another common one…

    Reply
  4. anam -  October 12, 2013 - 11:50 am

    1 love it

    Reply
  5. BHolland -  October 12, 2013 - 7:37 am

    make that “One who works too hard…” (Can’t believe I did that!)

    Reply
  6. Nidnat Mystedin -  October 12, 2013 - 5:21 am

    1. Madzillas: for mad and outrageous crowd; mob
    2. Thinksploitation: for harbouring foul thoughts and oftentimes going off the right mind frame.

    Both can be disapproving or pejorative.

    Reply
  7. BHolland -  October 11, 2013 - 2:09 pm

    @Keith J. Boyle:

    Thank you very much, Keith. I have had this same annoyance for years. What is a “workoholic,” anyway? One who works to hard in alcohol?

    Reply
  8. Keith J. Boyle -  October 11, 2013 - 4:09 am

    The libfix that annoys me is -oholic, based on alcoholic. There are now chocoholics, foodoholics (a k a foodies), et al. Most perturbing.

    Reply
  9. en jay -  October 10, 2013 - 10:00 pm

    ‘sploitation next to jabbawockeez ‘

    Reply
  10. Joe DePalma -  October 10, 2013 - 2:50 pm

    I love the hot word section. It’s my favorite part. Give us more!

    Reply
  11. Hebeestie Wallopman -  October 10, 2013 - 1:20 pm

    I had never heard of mumblecore until your recent article, and reading this I find Ennuisploitation makes more sense liguistically.

    Mumblecore makes me think of a genre of music typified by hardcore indechipherable lyrics.

    Reply
  12. Mariah -  October 10, 2013 - 8:58 am

    This is so interesting, learning about all the affixes. I liked the way you referenced previous blog entries, like mumblecore, to tie it all together. I like learning random things, so keep it up!

    Reply
  13. Rickedy Rick -  October 10, 2013 - 7:13 am

    Brilliant article. I wouldn’t hold out any hope for writers to improve in quality anytime soon, though. All journalists do these days is surf twitter for stories!

    Reply

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