Pretty Little Liars Actress Troian Bellisario Is Making Up Words

Making new words stick is difficult. Lewis Carroll succeeded, but Gretchen from Mean Girls did not. How will Troian Bellisario fare?

Mignon Fogarty
2-minute read


Last week, Troian Bellisario from Pretty Little Liars made up a word to describe what happens in Tuesday night's film noir episode: noir-ified.

"She goes to take another pill to keep up all night and she loses touch completely with her own reality and wakes up in a new reality and that is her life, noir-ified, if I can just make up that word."

Lewis Carroll's made-up words such as portmanteau and chortle stuck, but it's notoriously difficult to make a new word catch on, as Regina from Mean Girls knows. Poor Gretchen, "fetch" is never going to happen.

Christopher Johnson, a verbal branding specialist who goes by @name_inspector on Twitter, has been commenting on the -ify suffix for years. It turns out it's a trend. A post on his site with an impressive chart shows that since 1996, 187 new companies have launched with names that end in -ify (e.g., Spotify), and there's been a huge surge in the last five years. 

"I've definitely noticed a strong trend of startup names ending with -ify. I think that really got going with Spotify," Johnson said by e-mail. "In the tech/business world, 'gamification' has been a hot topic in recent years. It refers to the application of techniques used in games (most typically video/computer games) to practical goals. Gamify is a company associated with that trend. I think buzz about gamification and the explosion of -ify names are both likely influences on current use of the suffix."

Is Bellisario a Spotify user? Is she excited about gamification? Or has she been more generally influenced by the general -ify trend that floats by all our ears and eyes as we're out in the world? Regardless, to answer her question: Yes, you can make up a word, but whether anyone will ever use it again is an open question.

Still, I'm sure Pretty Little Liars' millions of fans are looking forward to Tuesday's noir-ification.

Pretty Little Liars photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show.

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