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Someone on another website was wondering whether a certain word was correct. After they asked the question they said:

I guess I'm asking how it rates on the correct-o-meter.

The usage of correct-o-meter got me curious to know more about this unusual yet interesting usage of the suffix o-meter.

Lexico's definition:

informal
Forming nouns denoting a measure of a quality, emotion, etc.

Examples: ‘stressometer’ ‘drunkometer’

I have also found many variations of it:

  • Truth-o-meter
  • Fake-o-meter
  • Lie-o-meter
  • Weird-o-meter
  • Epic-o-meter
  • Busy-o-meter
  • Happy-o-meter
  • Cringe-o-meter
  • Surprise-o-meter

and many more.
Some are obviously trademarks of actual measuring tools, however, I am particularly interested in the ones that indicate imaginary measuring tools like: happy-o-meter.

My question is:
Do native speakers usually add the suffix o-meter to a word for a humorous effect?
I mean I would assume that, for example, cringe-o-meter and epic-o-meter could only be used in a humorous context.
Is this correct? If so, could you please give me an example sentence for this specific usage?

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    AFAIK, these are all rather unusual terms, synthesized when needed for humor. No, I would say this is not often used, though the meaning of each would be easily understood. May 10, 2021 at 1:20
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    You have the recipe, you know how to make new examples. Some people might do it now and then, but someone who invented a new -o-meter expression every five minutes would soon find themselves being avoided if not subjected to physical violence. May 10, 2021 at 6:11
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    This topic is thoroughly covered, as a trope, here - "basically Whatever-You-Want-O-Meter". Has an example from 1727. May 10, 2021 at 6:52
  • @Michael Harvey "Some people might do it now and then, but someone who invented a new -o-meter expression every five minutes would soon find themselves being avoided if not subjected to physical violence." :) That paints a hilarious mental picture. Thank you for the link, I have checked out several pages on that website and it gave me some good insighs on how trope works. I'm currently trying to come up with examples. I think I'm going to add them to the OP soon.
    – Mohammad
    May 10, 2021 at 20:39

1 Answer 1

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Q. Do native speakers usually add the suffix o-meter to a word for a humorous effect?

I wouldn't say we do it a lot, but it is a recognisable trope as your research has proved. Of course, there are many legitimate, real-life things with the suffix such as a barometer, or a speedometer. Also, many old television programmes would feature a 'clapometer' which supposedly measured the level of applause from the studio audience.

There's something very old-fashioned about it - even though 'meters' for measuring things are very much still in use, it sounds like something from the pre-digital, analogue age. Part of the humour also derives from the anachronistic feel.

Some other suffixes which are also used for similar humorous effect include:

  • "-omatic" - to suggest automation, eg 'grillomatic' for an automatic grilling machine. Heavily used for humour in the Wallace and Gromit films.
  • "-inator" - to suggest that something brings about an effect in something, or causes something to become something, heavily used in the cartoon series 'Phineas and Ferb'. Also sometimes used as a suffix to someone's name to suggest they are unstoppable like 'The Terminator'.
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