Word nerds seeks "meta-core"-ellary
April 1, 2010 2:39 PM   Subscribe

I'm a word nerd who likes fun words and this word I came across is fun to say and, at least to me, kind of new: mumblecore. That got me thinking -- what makes a "-core?" I am interested in how generes of certain media are dubbed “-core.” Is there anything that makes a genre a “-core” genre and not it’s own suffix-free genre name? Why is “screamo” not “screamcore,” when we have “nerdcore,” “noisecore,” and “hardcore?” (more...)

“Screamo” sounds pretty “hardcore” to me, but mine are untrained ears I guess.

It’s one thing to collect fun new words, but another to discover emerging rules/methods upon which fun new words are coined. I’d love to know how “-cores” are determined.

Other fun “-cores” I’ve found to explore are:

easycore (is this an oxymoron?)
happy hardcore (another oxymoron?)

I do know that “Happy Hardcore” drives me up the wall as my teen daughter occasionally torments me with it. But it’d be nice to know how a genre gets its own name (like “Gabber”) vs. a “-core” name (why no “gabcore?”)

Maybe I will coin this inquiry “metacore” and myself “wordnerdcore.” I’ve got a new suffix and I am not afraid to use it…

But can you help me use it properly? And have I missed any fun "-core" words?
posted by cross_impact to Media & Arts (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think 'screamo' is derived from the 'emo' genre.
posted by elsietheeel at 2:45 PM on April 1, 2010

I'm fairly sure the -core suffix in most uses you are referring to means that the specified genre has what is considered to be a loyal and devout following.

A fantastic example is nerdcore. It doesn't just refer to the type of music being played, but the fact that that genre of music has created an entire movement of people that support it.

"Screamo" vs. "screamcore" is a poor comparison. "Screamo"is a type of music that is a mix of screaming. It doesn't really represent the followers of the emo movement, but rather the screaming noise that emo music typically sounds like. I suppose you could have an emocore following, but most fans of emo music tend to be too depressed and apathetic to form a movement. :)
posted by phredgreen at 2:50 PM on April 1, 2010

ack. A mix of screaming and emo.
posted by phredgreen at 2:50 PM on April 1, 2010

posted by fixedgear at 2:52 PM on April 1, 2010

I'm a big fan of Breakcore, Glitchcore, Raggacore and Flashcore. There's a lot of metal subgenres with the "-core" as well, Groovecore, Deathcore, Melodic Metalcore etc... There's also things like Terrorcore, Spazcore and Rapcore... But I think there's at least two different origins for all of this silliness. I know that in electronic music there's variants of Hardcore Techno (e.g. Happy Hardcore). On the other side there's the evolution of hardcore punk, as far as I'm aware Metal + Hardcore (or Post-Hardcore) is Metalcore and nearly all of the metal "-core" genres are either a fusion of something and Metalcore or Hardcore Punk. A third possibility is that they use the -core suffix to indicate a more intense form of whatever the prefix is. For example: Nerdcore is extremely nerdy. Well, that's all I can think of, I hope this small, tired, teenager helped! Thanks, Aimmar.
posted by ACair at 2:52 PM on April 1, 2010

hatecore (not always, but often linked with white supremacy hardcore movements)

as for screamo - well, it's an offshoot of emo or emotional hardcore or emocore - but the latter two were dropped in favor of the first, so when screamo came around it used that nomenclature. keep in mind that this is late 80s, early 90s, so it really has nothing in common with current emo.
posted by nadawi at 2:56 PM on April 1, 2010

I think the "-core" suffix suggests a certain level of intensity, seriousness, or devotion to something. You're not just "really into this," you're "hardcore about it." If somebody's activity name ends in "-core" you can bet they're not playing around. And like so many things, it's been co-opted by people in the name of irony, and now applies to jokey things as a tongue-in-cheek way of saying "let's pretend we're really really serious about [some not-very-serious thing]!" Suddenly the word simultaneously means one thing, and the polar opposite of that thing, and as a result doesn't mean anything at all anymore.

As for "screamo," it has a totally different etymology. It's emo music, with screaming. The evolution of that genre followed a different path than the "-core" types of music. But again, they have been merged together, after the fact, with "-cores" and the music styles converged in new ways, broadening the varieties of music in the world, but also muddying the waters of linguistic purity. I think the only sane response we can have is the existential one: There are no genres and no descriptive words of any use anymore, and you can call anything "anything-core" and you can call any type of music whatever made-up genre name you want. It is what it is.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 2:59 PM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

happy hardcore (another oxymoron?)

That's not part of the usual -core nomenclature, which refers to punk-derived genres.

There's also metalcore, which is for emo dweebs that want to play dress-up as Halford and increasingly does not have enough a hardcore component at all - it's often metal + some other generic rock.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 2:59 PM on April 1, 2010

I suppose you could have an emocore following, but most fans of emo music tend to be too depressed and apathetic to form a movement.

that is new emo - not original emo. the DC-based punk/post-punk/emocore movement was plenty fired up enough to form a movement. i mean, rites of spring, ian mckaye, beefeater (and slightly later - sunny day real estate and jawbreaker) are pretty fucking hardcore.
posted by nadawi at 3:02 PM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Good contributions so far. So is mumblecore the first use of "-core" for a genre other than music? Is the "-core" phenomenon spreading?
posted by cross_impact at 3:04 PM on April 1, 2010

I don't really know a lot about these genres of music, but I'm pretty sure the "-core" suffix comes from hardcore punk (also called just "hardcore"), a subgenre of punk in the 80s. Other genres derived from it (including ones that blended punk and metal) were named with portmanteau of "hardcore" and something else, so they kept the "core" in their names.

Now that the "-core" suffix is so well known as a part of genre names, people come up with all kinds of quasi-facetious "whatever-core" names for new genres of music, like the ones you mentioned (even if those aren't really genres). The fact that music genres are often named by journalists who are trying to sound clever may also be responsible for the profusion of names.
posted by k. at 3:06 PM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, more examples: thrashcore, slowcore, sadcore
posted by k. at 3:10 PM on April 1, 2010

It's actually a kind of informal democracy in action. These kinds of words and phrases come into common usage because... well, because people use them. There's little rhyme or reason to it.

So is mumblecore the first use of "-core" for a genre other than music?

Not hardly: "hardcore", "softcore"
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:11 PM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

posted by enfa at 4:23 PM on April 1, 2010

When I was in college, we used to make fun of this kid who was always referring to this -core or that -core as if they were all different gangs. Like the this-core kids didn't get along with the that-core kids, but they would party with the whatsit-core kids. We just started making up -cores to mess with him. For the record, he identified as "posi-core," which is apparently some kind of positive hardcore, I guess? According to him, you could identify what -core someone was in by specific clothing items and sometimes by what bandana color was folded up in their pocket (yup, kinda like gangs, but made up of almost exclusively of middle and upper-class white and hispanic boys).
I always thought that -cores were always subgenres of hardcore. So anything that's not hardcore-type music should not be referred to as a -core, just as anything that is not hip-hop type music should not be referred to as -hop.
posted by ishotjr at 4:39 PM on April 1, 2010

As a rule of thumb, any widely recognized electronic music subgenre that is a -core word is probably just a hardcore techno derivative (i.e. it's harsh and fast).

I think gabber isn't a -core because it existed before "hardcore techno" was used as an umbrella term for that sort of music. However, I have heard the term gabbercore used, and I think that connotes a purist vision of gabber music (not branching out into other sound themes).
posted by Ultra Laser at 5:14 PM on April 1, 2010

happy hardcore (another oxymoron?)

That's not part of the usual -core nomenclature, which refers to punk-derived genres.

But as ACair (and on preview Ultra Laser) says, happy hardcore distinguishes itself from hardcore [techno], which (to the extent that I agree with your fairly narrow definition) was reasonably "punk derived" in attitude/execution. However I think there's more to it than that since use of "hardcore" in other senses predates its use in U.S. punk.

Let's add breakcore micro-genre splittercore.

Hip-hop subgenre pornocore as coined by Kool Keith for the legendary Sex Style (1996).
posted by galaksit at 5:34 PM on April 1, 2010

I think the answer to this question is part semantic, part morphological, and part phonological. Meaning that, for any given word-core, the catchyness of the term has to do with how apt it is (semantic grounds...is this thing really 'core' as we understand the meaning of core), how it fits into word-productivity/neologism frameworks - its FUDGE-factor, and how the phonological segments mesh together (is it phonotactically weird? do the sound-symbolism associations of the final segment attaching to the initial segment of 'core' have connotations that resonate with the fundamental meaning of the word?), etc. For example, a word like Rockcore fails on all three counts (IMHO). Nerdcore, however, really works. There's a cognitive dissonance there, that's well, nerdy. To the core.
posted by iamkimiam at 5:35 PM on April 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

A fantastic example is nerdcore. It doesn't just refer to the type of music being played, but the fact that that genre of music has created an entire movement of people that support it.

Quibble: The word predates the movement (It was coined by MC Frontalot who noticed that there were other people doing similar styles of nerdy hip-hop and was looking for a rallying banner. It worked.)

Nerdcore, like most other variants, is derived ultimately from 'hardcore' (or occasionally, 'softcore'--itself a play on 'hardcore.') It has been independently coined fairly often to describe nerdy pursuits, things, websites, etc.

It probably it shows up in music so often because of the punk usage, and subsequent feedback loop of all the other -core genres.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:48 PM on April 1, 2010

posted by davey_darling at 7:07 PM on April 1, 2010

I'm reminded of the song Baker's Dozen by Guttermouth.

"Skacore Snowcore Hardcore Homocore Applecore I can't take it any more My core Your core This core That core One core I can't take it! I want to be unusual, I wanna be punk rock"

The verses contain more snide humor about various cores.
posted by beardlace at 2:20 AM on April 2, 2010

I don't think the application of "hardcore" to genres other than punk necessarily implies any connection with punk music.

The word itself has been around since the '50s, and in its literal meaning—"uncompromising" and "dedicated" seem like the relevant senses—it has been applied to punk, rap, and techno in completely unconnected ways. There is no meaningful relationship between hardcore punk and hardcore rap that goes beyond the broader meaning of the word.

At this point -core is probably a generic enough suffix that people are comfortable applying it to just about anything (e.g., sadcore and mumblecore), but I think most of the canonical -cores are subgenres descended from the original "hardcore" version of rap, techno, punk, or whatever else, or else an ironic reaction to it (e.g., nerdcore).
posted by revfitz at 2:03 AM on April 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

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