Climate changey: An adjective that describes “that feeling when you’re not sure if it’s just hot or if it’s humans destroying the earth.” Proposed by Alexis Madrigal, editor-in-chief of Fusion.
“It’s not so easy to talk about the weather anymore,” Madrigal writes in an article published in Fusion October 12. Sandstorms in Tel Aviv in September or weeks of 80°F days in October in Oakland, California, where Madrigal lives (as do I), may simply be freak occurrences. On the other hand, they may “our new climactic [sic] baseline” – after all, “the climate is a whole lot of days of weather. If the climate is changing, so must the weather.”
This ambiguity shows up in the science, too. One report from December 2014 said the California drought could probably be chalked up to natural variability. Another in August 2015 said climate change intensified the drought by 15 or 20%, and noted that future droughts are likely to get worse.
This “lack of clarity” creates a “weird feeling,” Madrigal writes, and that feeling deserves a name:
We need a word that reflects the basic anxiety of not knowing what the weather means anymore. And so let me suggest a way to describe both the mental state and the weather that causes it: climate changey. [Emphasis in the original.]
I know this word doesn’t sound technical or impressive. It’s a low-road word, a compound modifier formed by adding the childish -y onto the end of this global phenomenon. But it’s useful for our current state of necessary equivocation.
Used in a sentence: “Nine inches of rain in a single day? It may be climate change. Or maybe it’s just climate changey.”
Climate changey echoes other jokey -y coinages such as truthy (as in Stephen Colbert’s truthiness) and messagey (overburdened with polemics). In Making New Words: Morphological Derivation in English (Oxford University Press: 2014), R.M.W. Dixon notes that the -y suffix “is getting more and more productive” and is being used “with words of any length” – as opposed to the standard one- or two-syllable roots – and “often in a jocular vein.” His examples include “a windbagg-y liberal,” “I’m feeling really Hamlett-y today – to link or not to link,” and “She’s an [open-air]-y kind of girl.” For examples of another uber-productive contemporary affix, see my Visual Thesaurus column on “ish.”