Today’s two-part back-formed verb inventory

This is my inventory, up to today, of these things. Some of them are of fair age, some quite recent. Originally, I tried to distinguish “established” from “innovative” examples, but the distinction eventually seemed to me to be indefensible.

The inventory is amended every few days, and it doesn’t begin to pretend to be exhaustive. Think of it merely as a survey of the kinds of phenomena that are out there.

Items are listed by the verb serving as second element. (The punctuation varies: some are listed solid, some hyphenated, some separated. These differences mean absolutely nothing.)

The inventory:

ASSOCIATE: free-associate

BARGAIN: plea-bargain

BEAR: child-bear

BIND: spellbind

BOIL: hard-boil, potboil

BREAK: housebreak

BUILD: jerry-build

BURN: sunburn

BUY: store-buy

CHECK: factcheck, name-check

CLEAN: houseclean, dry-clean, spring-clean

COAST: roller-coast

CONDITION: air-condition

CONQUER: all-conquer

CONTROL: quality-control

CROP: sharecrop

CUT: cost-cut

DANCE: breakdance

DIVE: muffdive, scuba dive

DREAM: daydream

DRILL: offshore drill

DRINK: underage drink

DROP: name-drop

EDIT: copyedit

ENHANCE: performance advance

FLAP: arm-flap

FORM: back-form

FUCK: finger-fuck

GAZE: navelgaze

HANDLE: panhandle

HOLD: grudge-hold

HUNT: headhunt, househunt, job-hunt

JUMP: line-jump

KEEP: book-keep, housekeep, timekeep

KILL: serial-kill

KISS: buttkiss

LAND: soft-land

LASH: tongue-lash

LEAD: cheerlead

LIGHT: moonlight

MAKE: matchmake, custom-make

MANAGE: stage-manage

MARRY: gay marry

MATCH: price-match

MIND: child-mind

PICK: cherrypick, nitpick

PORT: teleport

PRODUCE: executive produce

PROMPT: teleprompt

QUARTER: headquarter

READ: lipread, proofread, mindread, silent-read

REAR: child-rear

REFER: cross-refer

ROLL: logroll, steamroll

RUN: showrun

SEARCH: Google-search, web-search

SEE: sightsee

SHARE: emotion-share

SHOOT: troubleshoot

SHOP: doctor-shop, X-shop in general

SIT: babysit, fence-sit

SOLVE: problem-solve

SPEND: secret-spend

STAB: backstab

SURF: windsurf, bodysurf

TAKE: caretake

TAP: wiretap

TEACH: substitute teach

TEND: bartend

TRANSFER: high speed transfer

TROT: globetrot

TUNE: fine-tune

VOTE: early vote, absentee vote, advance vote

WALK: sleepwalk, tightrope-walk

WASH: brainwash

WATCH: people-watch

WORK: buddy work

WRITE: hand-write, typewrite

8 Responses to “Today’s two-part back-formed verb inventory”

  1. meg Says:

    One that doesn’t quite fit the form but keeps company in spirit, due to the verb coming first: “to drag-ass.” I’ve noticed this quite a bit over the last couple of years, mainly in the present progressive or the imperfect (“I was drag-assing all day today”).

    I’m not sure I can think of any other verb-first back formations like this one.

  2. Ian Preston Says:

    Some more that occurred to me, in no particular order, all attested as verb phrases by Google searches: to time waste, to time manage, to lion tame, to horse ride, to horse race, to fox hunt, to snake charm, to sex offend, to drug traffic, to ball tamper, to arse lick, to shit stir, to shape shift, to happy slap, to arm wrestle, to lane hog, to clock watch, to hill climb, to fell walk, to cliff hang, to draft dodge, to house sit, to grave rob, to penny pinch, …

    I am only supposing that these are all back-formed but it seems a reasonable supposition. I guess most of them must have begun with people Xing Y in a practice that became Y-Xing, leading to a back-formed two-part verb phrase Y X. Is there a theory about how and when this does or doesn’t happen?

  3. arnoldzwicky Says:

    To Ian Preston: I was hoping not to get saddled with making an inventory of all the back-formations of this sort that have been made, but I suppose it’s irresistible for people to offer me more examples. So now I have some work to do.

  4. Ian Preston Says:

    Yes, it is irresistible and too easy too. I find that if you just think of established terms of the form X-Ying or X-Yer then as often as not you can get an example out of it: strap hang, loss adjust, rock climb, … Perhaps it is more informative to find the examples that don’t work and ask why. Why is it that “nail clipper” or “goal scorer”, say, don’t seem to yield back-formed verb phrases when “hair dryer” and “goal keeper” do?

  5. Back-formings « Arnold Zwicky’s Blog Says:

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  6. Gary Says:

    There’s no need to handwring about keeping the inventory uptodate.

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