For (Michael) Jordan, we often see Jordanesque. Why? Perhaps because he is His Airness (and the -esque suffix is associated with fanciness)? Maybe also to avoid confusion with Jordanians?

Plato -> Platonic. Why? Do names ending with an "o" generally get the suffix "-nic"? If so what do we do with Michelangelo?

And here are some for which there does not seem to be consensus:

Tolstoy -> Tolstoyian? Tolstoyan? Toylstoyean? Something else? Any guidelines?

Schelling -> Schellingian? Schellingesque?

Is this just mostly arbitrary and a matter of convention?

  • Partial duplicate of What are the limits of using the suffix “-esque”?
    – RegDwigнt
    Feb 5 '14 at 18:44
  • Yes I saw that, but this is indeed just a "partial" duplicate, because that question seems to be more specifically about "the limits of -esque". Whereas I was hoping to find some general guidelines for creating such suffixes.
    – user38936
    Feb 5 '14 at 18:54
  • Probably the best guideline for these coinages is to check what already exists on the internet. For Tolstoy, Tolstoyan seems to be preferred. These things are influenced by what is considered to sound best, but often by people with preferences different from one's own. But Kafkaesque was bang on. Feb 5 '14 at 19:46
  • -ish needs some love too
    – d'alar'cop
    Feb 6 '14 at 7:52
  • For Tolstoy, perhaps "Tolstojan" as in "Troy" > "Trojan"?
    – herisson
    Dec 31 '16 at 3:35

I would never deny someone the right to assign their own adjective form out of a proper noun that they own, or are assigned. I would argue that it comes from what appears or sounds best when spoken/read, but ultimately it would be like deciding upon a nickname or slang term. It is a proper noun after all, so it won't be listed in a dictionary text until it passes a certain popularity/consensus level.

  • This is a TimDCesque answer!
    – Oldcat
    Feb 5 '14 at 22:45

As Edwin Ashworth has said, 'these things are influenced by what appears best'. But often there can be more than one such ending attaching to the same proper noun, the usage of each one having come to mean something different.

For example 'Platonic' is most often used in the sense of 'Platonic friends', meaning an intimate and affectionate relationship, but non-sexual. Their relationship was purely Platonic. It also implies being confined to words, theories or ideals, and not leading to practical action.

However 'Platonist' generally refers to someone who endorses the philosophy of Plato (which not everyone does, especially his views on government by aristocrats). Platonism can refer to revivals of Platonic doctrines, such as the 17th century 'Cambridge Platonism' which attempted to reconcile Christianity with humanism and science.

Meanings taken from digital version of The Oxford Dictionary of English (not same thing as OED)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy