The Rumpus and Jonathan Lethem have recently drawn attention to the adjective “Ballardian,” as in, resembling the works of J.G. Ballard, especially his “dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes & the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments.”
I’m automatically suspicious of claims that “Ballardian” has entered the popular lexicon, since Norton just published The Complete Stories of J. G. Ballard, and exaggerating the importance of the adjective is an easy point of entry for talking about the book. It’s one thing for your fans to coin a word. It’s another thing for that word to be used as often as “Shakespearean” and “Kafkaesque.”
So I conducted a highly unscientific Google search to see if J.G. Ballard has actually joined the ranks of famous authors with famous adjectives. In the company of Joyce, Chaucer, and Hemingway, let’s see where Ballard falls.
[adjective]: [Google hits]
Dickensian: 438,000 – the new word for any complicated TV series
Spenserian: 159,000 – name of a poetic stanza
Sapphic: 2,490,000 – a lot of these hits are porn
Homeric: 2,090,000 – also the name of an era in the Greek language
Byronic: 270,000 – the Byronic hero
Pindaric: 159,000 – the Pindaric ode
I have to say my favorite adjectives are the ones that end in -ic. They sound barbaric (Nordic, runic, Germanic, Icelandic) and they’re often strong enough to shift the stress from one syllable (MIL-ton) to another (mil-TON-ic). There’s also a category of adjectives for names ending in the letter w, where the w changes to a v. Shaw becomes Shavian, Marlowe becomes Marlovian. Those are cool, too.
I’m surprised that Ballard’s adjective, with 51,000 hits, surpasses those of more “classic” authors like Faulkner, Flaubert, Woolf, and Melville. Still, the average number of Google hits for the five writers The Rumpus initially compares Ballard to (Kafka, Joyce, Woolf, Dickens, and Nabokov) is 223,760. Ballard has a long way to go before his word is that widespread.
Any favorite adjectives I missed?
Do you think “Ballardian” would get more Google hits if it described a sexual position?
Would that sexual position be related to automobile wrecks?
What’s your name as an adjective?