Truncated lame duck

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.

I’ve posted a number times of such truncations of composite expressions, to yield new, ad hoc, interpretations of other expressions. Mostly these are instances of “nouning (of adjectives) by truncation”, like micropolitan/metropolitan for micropolitan/metropolitan area (here) and primary for primary care physician (here), but sometimes the source is a N + N compound, like greenhouse for greenhouse gases (here) — and lame duck for lame duck Congress.

Attitudes towards these ad hoc truncations are mixed; many people abhor them, because they’re novel, because their interpretation requires some work (taking context and shared knowledge into account), or because they fail to Include All Necessary Words. In the “protecting benefits” Facebook posting above, the truncation comes out of the blue (and so requires more interpretive work), but the website it refers to uses lame duck session, so there’s some contexual support for the intended interpretation.

In other cases of lame duck, there’s considerable contextual support: lame duck Congress/session comes first, and then is truncated in later occurrences (a strategy often used in introducing initialist abbreviations as new, ad hoc, nouns: first comes the full expression, say weapons of mass destruction, then later the initialism, WMDs, now in effect defined tacitly). Here, for example, is a piece of political commentary on

Or, to put it another way: will the lame duck Congress actually get some things accomplished in the next few weeks? Conventional wisdom has held for the past few weeks that nothing much would happen in the lame duck, other than a giant fight over extending the Bush tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy.
… But maybe Obama has realized that the lame duck is going to be his last, best chance to advance any major parts of his agenda until 2013.
… Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has also been showing quite a bit of fight, as well. Instead of just throwing up his hands and declaring “there isn’t enough time,” Harry is promising floor votes on these tough issues before the lame duck is over.

Plenty of other examples on the net.


2 Responses to “Truncated lame duck”

  1. the ridger Says:

    “But maybe Obama has realized that the lame duck is going to be his last, best chance to advance any major parts of his agenda until 2013.”

    Ummmm. It’s December 2012. Lame duck or no lame duck, it’s his last chance of any kind to do anything before 2013.

  2. husband | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] including sneak for sneak preview, privates for private parts, dress for dress rehearsal, and lame duck for lame duck Congress/session.) Husband in this sense hasn’t made it into the OED, and in […]

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