Snowmageddon! Why the word of the moment is just a bit flaky

Armageddon was the last battle in the Bible; Nutellamageddon heralded a shortage in hazelnuts . . . so how serious is a meteorological ‘mageddon’?

The “snowmageddon scene  in Ce”lbridge. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

The “snowmageddon scene in Ce”lbridge. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

Every year, as a dusting of frozen precipitation causes the UK to grind to a halt, the cry goes up of “snowmageddon!”. But what is a mageddon, exactly?

The word “Armageddon” derives from the Hebrew “har”, hill or mountain, plus “Megiddo”, a place name. In the Bible, Armageddon is the last battle between the forces of good and evil, hence the cold war talk of “nuclear armageddon”. In chess, an “Armageddon” game – in which White has more time but must win – can decide a tournament tie-break.

Like “-pocalypse”, though, “-mageddon” is too much fun to reserve for situations of ultimate finality. A notorious 1997 video game was called Carmageddon; when California restaurants were banned from serving duck liver in 2012, it was “foie-mageddon”; and there have been events such as “birdmageddon” and “Nutellamageddon”.

So the suffix “-mageddon” is applied these days only to events that are not very serious. Donald Trump’s recent call for “armed educators” to be installed in every American classroom was not called, er, “armageddon”. If something really does threaten to be the end of the world, we’re going to need a scarier word. –Guardian Service

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