Archive for the ‘Compounds’ Category

fish food, fish flakes

November 15, 2015

Yesterday’s Rhymes With Orange:

Hilary Price returns to the ambiguity of compounds every so often, and I return to the topic myself fairly often, noting that even if we set aside Type X, or “distant”, compounds (where you have to know a story about some situation to understand what the compound means) and stick to Type O, or ordinary, compounds (where there’s a relatively small set of patterns for interpretation), there’s still plenty of room for ambiguity. As here: food / flakes for fish (to eat) OR food / flakes (made) from/of fish?


cold cuts

November 12, 2015

Recently I wondered about the story of cold cuts ‘lunch meat’, an Adj + N composite that is not particularly transparent semantically (in fact, lunch meat isn’t fully transparent either). There’s some interesting linguistic history here. But there’s clearly also some substantial cultural history to be uncovered, and for this I don’t have the resources.


crap(s) game

November 6, 2015

Noted in a NYT story on the 4th, the N + N compound crap game ‘game of craps’. I was reminded of the line from Guys and Dolls:

But for the good old reliable Nathan, oh it’s only just a short walk,
To the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New Yawk.

(or New York, if you insist on a standard pronunciation).


Street craps in a studio theatre performance of Guys and Dolls

Now the name of the game is craps (never crap), which is PL in form (apparently having the Z suffix of the PL) but strictly SG syntactically: Craps is / *are a fascinating game. Nevertheless, as N1 in a N + N compound, the word can appear in a formally SG variant, crap — as well as in its formally PL variant: craps game is entirely acceptable.

This variation, between formally SG and formally PL in N1, is well-known (under the heading “plurals in compounds”, the name echoing the standard assumption that N1 should be formally SG) but is much more widespread than people have been inclined to think. Crap game alongside craps game is just another example among many — but it turns out to fall in with a whole set of examples, involving game names that are formally PL.

A side issue is the origin of the name craps, which is very much unclear. The OED has one speculation (so labeled) on the matter, and the Wikipedia article on the game has another (a plausible story, taken from a 1938 popular history of gambling in America, that might be sheer invention).


X snob

October 31, 2015

First, I note a snowclonelet composite not discussed earlier on this blog: X snob, involving a specialized use of the noun snob. Then I summarize some ADS-L discussion of possible extensions of the snowclonelet, where it was suggested that the snowclonelet might in some cases be losing its pejorative tone.


Sunday penis notes: #3 phallic food

October 25, 2015

(Lots of penis talk, but some linguistic points along the way.)

More things that popped up when I went looking for something having to do with penises — and was offered various sites on phallic food, a long-standing topic on this blog. Three senses of phallic food here: penises as food; foodstuffs that resemble penises (either naturally, or by accident); foodstuffs that are fashioned to look like penises. I’ve posted often about the last two types, but the first is new on this blog.


Morning toe jam

October 23, 2015

This morning’s name was toe jam (aka toe-jam and toejam), a slang term for something that has no medical label that I can find. Some definitions:

‘material that collects between the toes’ (Wikipedia)

‘dirt which accumulates between the toes’ (OED2, with a first cite in only 1934)

‘the ‘gunk’ that accumulates between the toes’ (Huffington post article by a podiatrist)

My mind then took me immediately to the line

He wear no shoeshine, he got toe jam football

from the Beatles’ “Come Together” on their Abbey Lane album (1969).


Morning name: Dudelsack / doodlesack

September 29, 2015

Maybe WQXR played some bagpipe music while I was sleeping, but this was the name in my head when I woke: German Dudelsack (aka Sackpfeife) or English doodlesack, take your pick. In either case, the skirling and droning was in my head. A sample: the “Skye Boat Song” on bagpipes:

And, in case you haven’t seen a bagpiper and his instrument:



September 28, 2015

From Ned Deily yesterday, a Facebook posting announcing:

Last night’s last meal in Berlin: Leberkäs, what else? — at Berlin Friedrichstraße station. … The joke is that it is neither liver nor cheese and definitely not Berlin-ish.

with a photo:


More photos to come.


Morning: bruxism, brucellosis

September 26, 2015

This morning’s names: two that are somewhat similar in sound (though they have nothing to do with one another), both referring to conditions affecting the body (but of very different sorts).


Monkey puzzle tree

September 25, 2015

In my posting on the N + N compound monkey bread, referring to a sweet breadstuff whose relationship to monkeys is not at all obvious, I noted that some have suggested a connection to the monkey puzzle tree, since the bread is sometimes called monkey puzzle bread: perhaps the connection involves a perceived similarity between the bread and the fruit of the tree. That sent me looking for information about the tree, which I became acquainted with in England many years ago. Though I don’t see much resemblance between the bread and the fruit of the tree, the tree is fascinating in its own right, and its name presents another origins problem — what does the tree have to do with monkeys and puzzles? — but one whose (again, not at all obvious) answer seems to be known. In any case, worth posting about.



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