The ambiguity watch: N of N

I’ve written a lot about ambiguity in N+N compounds, and will write more, but today’s lesson is on a related set of ambiguities in N of N expressions, illustrated here in a Rhymes With Orange:

It took me a moment to get this one:

House of Pizza, intended like House of Foam (two blocks from my house) and other shop names (with an extended sense of house and with of marking function or source: ‘place where one can get/buy …’); versus

house of bricks, house of sticks, house of straw (as in The Three Little Pigs story), house of cards, etc., conveying ‘house made of …’

There are lots of other possibilities, of course, in House of Rothschild, House of Lords, and more. The House of Lords could, after all, be a place where you could pick up a Lord (for whatever purpose you have in mind), or the proper name of a particular type of house made of Lords (say, by stacking them one on another). Potential ambiguity is everywhere.

2 Responses to “The ambiguity watch: N of N”

  1. Chris Says:

    Bob and Ray’s House of Toast comes to mind…

  2. The House of X formula « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] House of X formula By arnold zwicky The central exhibit in yesterday’s posting on ambiguity in N of N nominals was House of […]

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