Yet another synthetic compound / back-formation

… this time fitting into my gay sex postings, about the verb spit-roast. I didn’t see it for a while, because the OED seems to treat the verb as a direct compound, from N spit + V roast: ‘roast on a spit’. But N + V compounds are not particularly common — except as the end result of synthetic compounding followed by back-formation.

OED2 has the verb spit-roast, and it’s relatively recent:

trans. To cook (meat or fish) on a spit, either over a fire or in an oven. Freq. as vbl. n. ppl. adj.

The “Freq.” is an understatement, since *all* of OED2’s cites are of PRP roasting or PSP roasted — not a single finite or BSE form in the lot: 1954 PRP as a nominal, 1959 PRP in a progressive, 1961 PSP as an adnominal modifier, 1973 PSP as a predicative, 1976 PSP as a predicative, 1979 PSP in a passive. These are all synthetic compounds, covering the versatility of PRP and PSP forms, in all their uses, but not going beyond that.

Sex appears in the draft additions of April 2010 for spit-roast:

trans. Brit. slang. Of two men: to engage in the sexual practice of spit-roasting with (a woman, or occas. a man)

[first cite] 1997 Roger’s Profanisaurus 25/1  Spit roast [? = PSP spit roasted], to be simultaneously skewered at both ends by pork swords.

Then 2004 PRP in a progressive. But: 2008 PST — finally a finite form, presumably a back-formation;

2008   A. Lister Swingers 87   My best experience was a threeway with Alan and one of the doormen from a local swinger’s club. The pair of them spit-roasted me, DP’d [doubly penetrated] me and basically spent hours making me come my brains out almost constantly.

Also in the draft additions of April 2010 for the noun spit-roasting:

Brit. slang a sexual practice in which a woman (or occas. a man) performs oral sex on one man while being penetrated from behind by another

This is the synthetic compound, serving as a noun, and there are cites from 2003, 2005, and 2008.

In recent years there are plenty of back-formed occurrences — as finite or BSE-form verbs. For example:

[PST] For about 15 minutes Noel and Belen spit roasted me and showed me pleasures I never knew existed. (link)

[PRS] He’s bent over as boys stand on either end of the twink and spit roast him lustily. (link)

[BSE] The mechanic and two of his employees fuck in a threesome. He sucks both dicks and they get to spit roast him and fill his asshole as he needs it. (link)

(For illustrations of the sexual practice among gay men: there are examples on AZBlogX, in “Threesomes and more” (3/31/13), “Easter threesomes” (4/1/13), “Manpiles” (4/6/13), and “Two examples” (4/16/13).)

Final note: Since there are so many two-part verbs that originated in synthetic compounds that were then subject to back-formation, you could imagine that some speakers have posited, or will posit, a N + V compounding process that forms new Vs (combining with a N referring to a non-subject agument for the V) directly. That would produce a historical development in which these compounds arise without the relatively long intermediate stage of synthetic compounding — a kind of short-circuiting of the usual progression.

One Response to “Yet another synthetic compound / back-formation”

  1. thnidu Says:

    I’ve always wondered why we bother calling them “back-formations”. I prefer simply “backforms”.

    Although it is of course true that my friends call me weird.

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