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.


7 thoughts on “Ramamatateriathonmobileburger”

  1. Interesting. I wonder if some of these -a-thons arise through obsessiveness. In the 80s I found myself arranging my own ‘Traviatathon’ after being mesmerised by the depiction of its first scene in “The Lost Weekend”, a forties film in which Ray Milland plays a rather unlikeable writer struggling with alcoholism. Milland is watching a live performance of the opera but during the opening scene (The Drinking Song) is reminded of booze he has stashed in his coat, and rushes out to get his coat and the bottle within; thereby he meets his longsuffering girlfriend. I then watched or listened to other performances of La Traviata, especially the opening scene. I found I only really liked the depiction of the first scene in the film. My end result was wearing out a Betamax videotape in an ongoing ‘Lost Weekend-athon’, though I probably lost more than one weekend doing this!

    1. “Libiamo, libiamo ne’ lieti calici”, otherwise known as The Brindisi – “The” drinking-song. Indeed a melody intoxicating enough to rouse a thirst for endless repetition.

  2. And now you’ve done a thon-athon. We stand on the crumbling precipice of infinite regression.

  3. Very interesting post, Guy. Your catalog of all the different ways we use “-athon” to describe an extended duration of doing something made me think of a contemporary example of how we label scandals. We attach “-gate” to describe all sorts of controversies and alleged wrongdoing to the point where it has entered the lexicon for many folks today who weren’t alive in 1972 and/or who know almost nothing about Watergate (or that it’s just the name of a hotel).

      1. I love it! I counted 191 separately identified instances of xxxxx-gate identified on the Wikipedia page for “scandals ending in -gate.” There are probably more than that.

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