Archive for the ‘Nouning’ Category


May 12, 2013

An eCard:

Well, smartass isn’t directly a compound of the adjective smart ‘impertinent’ and the noun ass; instead, -ass serves here as an expressive extension of smart (as in sweet-ass ‘really sweet, big-ass ‘really big’, dumb-ass ‘really dumb’, etc.) — note He’s always asking smart-ass / dumb-ass questions — and the extended adjective was then nouned, giving an alternative to smart aleck, smartypants, and in fact the noun smarty.


Brief mention: Hairspray mass nouning

May 12, 2013

From the 1988 movie version of Hairspray (which I watched for Mothers Day):

You better brace yourself for a whole lot of ugly coming from a never-ending parade of stupid.

(with reference to the consequences of integrating a teen dance show on tv).

Mass-nouning of ugly and stupid, in a single sentence. It might be relevant that the line comes from a black character, Motormouth Maybelle (played by Ruth Brown).

On nounings of stupid in several senses, with links to other discussions, see this posting.



May 1, 2013

An Emily Flake cartoon in the May 6th New Yorker:

Word play exploiting an ambiguity in ultimate.


Manliness and money

April 13, 2013

Among today’s cartoons, a Zippy on manliness and a Bizarro on slang for money:


Nouning in the NYT

April 2, 2013

In the NYT Sunday Review of 3/31, a nice piece by Henry Hitchings on nouning (“Those Irritating Verbs-as-Nouns”). The illustration:



Language play log

December 15, 2012

Three items with language play in them that came by me recently, in the order of their appearance: (1) the Mental Floss list of their ten best-selling t-shirts; (2) an Ian Shoales piece rushing through “The Catchphrase History of the World”; and (3) some porn flick titles.



December 5, 2012

From Geoff Nathan on ADS-L, the Pearls Before Swine cartoon from yesterday:

Geoff offered Rat’s derivation of sprouts as a prime example of of etymythology, and that it certainly is. Discussion on the strip’s site, meanwhile, took up the question of sprouts ‘sprouted seeds used as an ingredient or accompaniment in food preparation’ vs. sprouts ‘Brussels sprouts’; as far as I know, no one puts Brussels sprouts in sandwiches, and Goat’s sandwich surely has alfalfa sprouts or something similar in it. (more…)

Truncated lame duck

November 27, 2012

Caught on Facebook this morning:

Help us protect Social Security and Medicare benefits during the lame duck by signing our petition! (link)

This has the nominal lame duck as a truncated version of the N + N compound lame duck Congress/session — an ad hoc truncation that is interpretable given context and background knowledge.


Pre-op days

November 11, 2012

Notes on my Friday and Saturday, doing things, with the help of Elizabeth Traugott, to get ready for surgery on Wednesday.  Friday afternoon at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (family practice and physical therapy), Saturday morning at the Stanford University Medical Center and the Footwear Etc. store in Palo Alto. (Otherwise, a lot of exhausted sleep.) With some linguistic observations along the way.


Who’s your primary?

November 2, 2012

As I tramp through medical appointments, I have many interviews by staff people (I have, in fact, memorized my PAMF patient number, quite unintentionally, just from checking to make sure that the paperwork is good) who run through a standard set of questions. After my names, first and last, spelled out, my date of birth, and my insurance carrier comes the question “Who’s your primary?”, meaning ‘Who’s your primary care physician?’ Primary here is a nouning by truncation, a phenomenon I have lots of examples of (and have blogged about fairly often), so there’s nothing especially exciting here. What’s interesting is when the staff frame the question that way, one step further into medical jargon than primary care physician (which is already contextually specialized, used where a non-medical type might say regular doctor or family doctor).



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