The Marathon has ended, but its ending (-athon) goes on and on.
Quote-a-thon; crave-a-thon (erotic video); Sellathon; Jail-A-Thon (fundraising gimmick for Habitat for Humanity); radiothon; Rubik’s Cube-a-thon; Dance-A-Thon; Job-A-Thon; Fastathon; Petition-athon; Write-a-thon; Bank-A-Thon; Read-a-thon; Bike-a-thon; Car and Truck Sell Athon; Rock-A-Thon; graffitiathon; kick-a-thon (by a karate class); celebri-thon (Oscar awards); Push-Up-A-Thon; Share-A-Thon; Sponsor-A-Thon; Letter-a-thon; bookathon; barkathon; schmooze-athon (someone’s description of an annual gathering of publishers called BookExpo America); spam-a-thon (torrent of unwanted e-mail); quadrathon (a Pittsburgh doctor’s day of delivering two sets of quadruplets); Adoptathon (for pets); Readathon of Don Quixote held across Spain (2003); Muckathon (spreading cow manure on land made available by the Sweetland family, of Slymlakes Farm); hypocrisy-a-thon (filibuster of speeches by Republican senators); whingeathon (Brit.); knitathon (Brit.); charity-a-thon; honkathon; non-bonkathon (resolution to have no sex for a year); edit-a-thon; telethon (fund-raising); Traviatathon (succession of performances of “La Traviata”).
These are actually just additions to a collection with which I once filled a space in my short-lived magazine called In Defense of Variety. Along with it were collections of newfangled words in -arama, -omatic, -ette, -atorium, -burger, -mobile, -tron, -fest, -In, -oid, -ee. I’ve long ceased adding to these collections, which by now could have grown into the thousands. Can’t resist mentioning a few more on the -thon theme:
A friend wrote to me: “I’m here for my annual beg-a-thon” – meaning he wanted donations of books to give to the children at a summer camp.
Another friend: “This weekend we’ll have an unpacking marathon. Then next week we’ll have a put-away-a-thon.”
And: Walk-It-Off (a Walk-A-Thon held on the day after Thanksgiving).
Sometimes, contemplating words and bits of words, I find myself perceiving them as fossils of amazing durability. Romans two thousand years ago were saying ille and as a result millions of Frenchmen are at this moment saying le. Fennels grew beside a bay in Greece and were called by a word whose stem was marath-, and far down a long chain of causes people today are (probably) coining words like tickleathon, sneezeathon, emailathon, blogathon, electionathon, backgammonathon.