I was amused to find the unusually lengthy word, “Cliffpocalypsemageddonacaust” in Maureen Dowd’s article titled “Watch Out Below!” in December 15 NY-Times. Dowd admits she used a word invented by Jon Stewart:

"We have reached the quivering moment of truth that Jon Stewart calls “Cliffpocalypsemageddonacaust.” Other metaphors have been suggested: “fiscal obstacle course,” “debt bomb,” “austerity bomb.” But we’re stuck in the year of cliffian thinking."

Comedy Central (Nov 30) carries the lede, “The Daily Show on the looming Cliffpocalypsemageddonacaust” with Jon Stewart’s comment:

"There's an asteroid headed toward the Earth. We made it and fired it at ourselves. Because otherwise we would never have done the hard work required to protect ourselves from asteroids."

I suppose this lengthy compound word simply means Armageddon - the end of the world, and I don’t think it’s an important, practical, and long-abiding word that I ought to stock in my vocabluary. But what are the redundant components of this word?

Is the word used particularly in the context of financial cliff, or other disasters like the onslaught of asteroids?

Additionally, is “cliffian” an accepted English word?


1 Answer 1


The pieces are cliff, for the approaching “fiscal cliff” we’re preparing to precipitate ourselves over; Apocalypse, the Revelation of St. John concerning the end of the world; Armageddon, the final battle of John’s end time; and Holocaust, a “wholly burned” sacrifice, in modern use usually Hitler’s genocide of 6,000,000 Jews.

Of course this piling of phrase on phrase is intended as comic exaggeration; I assume it’s a nonce-word, created by Jon Stewart for the immediate occasion. He's perfectly capable of inventing another one just as silly if we're ever actually threatened by asteroid.

Cliffian likewise is meant ironically; it combines cliff with the adjectival suffix added to philosopher’s names—Aristotelian, Hegelian, Lacanian—as if blathering about the cliff were genuinely profound.

Both are no doubt “accepted” in exactly the spirit in which they are offered.

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