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According to Marchand (1969), clippings are not coined as words belonging to the standard vocabulary of a language. They originate as terms of a special group like schools, army, police, the medical profession, etc., in the intimacy of a milieu where a hint is sufficient to indicate the whole. For example, exam(ination), math(ematics), and lab(oratory) originated in school slang; spec(ulation) and tick(et = credit) in stock-exchange slang; and vet(eran) and cap(tain) in army slang. While clipping terms of some influential groups can pass into common usage, becoming part of Standard English, clippings of a socially unimportant class or group will remain group slang.
Clipping is different from back-formation – back-formation may change the part of speech or the word's meaning, whereas clipping creates shortened words from longer words, but does not change the part of speech or the meaning of the word.
Clipping mainly consists of the following types:
- Back clipping
- Middle clipping
- Complex clipping
Back clipping is the most common type, in which the beginning is retained. The unclipped original may be either a simple or a composite. Examples are: ad (advertisement), cable (cablegram), doc (doctor), exam (examination), fax (facsimile), gas (gasoline), gym (gymnastics, gymnasium), memo (memorandum), mutt (muttonhead), pub (public house), pop (popular music).
Fore-clipping retains the final part. Examples: bot (robot), chute (parachute), roach (cockroach), coon (raccoon), gator (alligator), phone (telephone), pike (turnpike), varsity (university), net (Internet).
In middle clipping, the middle of the word is retained. Examples are: flu (influenza), fridge (refrigerator), jams or jammies (pajamas/pyjamas), polly (apollinaris), shrink (head-shrinker), tec (detective).
Clipped forms are also used in compounds. One part of the original compound most often remains intact. Examples are: cablegram (cable telegram), op art (optical art), org-man (organization man), linocut (linoleum cut). Sometimes both halves of a compound are clipped as in navicert (navigation certificate). In these cases it is difficult to know whether the resultant formation should be treated as a clipping or as a blend, for the border between the two types is not always clear. According to Bauer (1983), the easiest way to draw the distinction is to say that those forms which retain compound stress are clipped compounds, whereas those that take simple word stress are not. By this criterion bodbiz, Chicom, Comsymp, Intelsat, midcult, pro-am, photo op, sci-fi, and sitcom are all compounds made of clippings.
- "Shortenings". Oxford Dictionaries Online. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
- Marchand, Hans (1969). The Categories and Types of Present-Day English Word-formation. München: C.H.Beck'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung.
- Bauer, Laurie (1983). English Word-Formation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.