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  • I found apocalyptically, but not with post-.
  • I'm trying to say in a way that is post-apocalyptic.

Example: Post-apocalyptically-scented outdoors.

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I'm perfectly familiar with post-apocalyptic - it gives me a pretty good idea what to expect if I'm told some movie is set in a post-apocalyptic world, for example. But what on earth would post-apocalyptic scent be? I know the Mad Max movies always seem to major on burning rubber and gasoline, but surely that's not the definitive smell for all post-apocalyptic contexts. –  FumbleFingers Dec 21 '11 at 23:48
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4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

If you think it expresses your meaning and that your readers will understand and respond positively to it, then there's no reason why you shouldn't use it. That's a more relevant consideration than whether or not it's a 'valid word', whatever that may mean.

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Wise words indeed. –  octosquidopus Dec 21 '11 at 19:27
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Yes; otherwise, we would be waiting an unconscionably long time to see it become a valid word. –  JeffSahol Dec 21 '11 at 21:17
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I commented to the question above, before reading your answer. All I can say is that if OP thinks it expresses his meaning is only half the story. It's also necessary (or at least highly desirable) that his audience/readership should understand that meaning. I certainly don't have any trustworthy concept of what post-apocalytic means in relation to OP's example "scent". –  FumbleFingers Dec 21 '11 at 23:54
    
@FumbleFingers: Hence my carefully chosen words 'If you think . . . that your readers will understand and respond positively to it'. –  Barrie England Dec 22 '11 at 7:51
    
I think we can safely say your words express your meaning, and your readers should understand them. I was just emphasising the second condition of your "if" because most likely OP wouldn't be asking if he didn't think his words met the first condition. But in his case the second would be far less likely to obtain. –  FumbleFingers Dec 22 '11 at 16:28
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As long as the word follows standard rules, and as long as it communicates your meaning, there is no reason why it wouldn't be valid. Remember that the dictionary doesn't define the language; it's the other way round. Also, most dictionaries will not contain every single conglomeration of prefixes (such as post-) added onto every noun, adjective, and adverb (such as apocalyptically) Your reasoning could run thus: apocalyptic is a adjective, and -ly appended to an adjective means the adverb form, so apocalyptically is a word. Post- is a prefix, and can be added to any word with which it makes sense, so post-apocalyptically is completely valid, even if it's not common.

That said, post-apocalyptically has a respectable number of google hits (699), and Dictionary.com has both apocalyptically and postapocalyptic as variations on apocalyptic.

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It may not be in any published dictionary, but:

  • it is a standard and grammatical use of suffixes and prefixes.
  • it doesn't strain the bounds of cognition.
  • it doesn't sound weird

The first is enough, but the other two might detract.

So the short answer is, yes.

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I believe both usages work well to describe an end of the world type of smell. In a post-apocalyptic world, we can expect to smell smoke, rust, and rotten odors.

Therefore, the smell really depends on how the world ended: nuclear war, disease, invasion, zombie outbreak, etc. We can smell the world post-apocalyptically and apocalyptically. Apocalyptically is more an adjective to describe the type of smell.

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