xkcd vocabulary

A recent xkcd:

I was about to post on this one, but Mark Liberman got to it first, yesterday, under the title “A stick tower by any other name”, where he wrote:

Mouseover title: “Stay warm, little flappers, and find lots of plant eggs!”

An amusing reminder of a serious issue: most compounds and phrasal collocations are used in ways that are consistent with their compositional meaning, but not entirely predictable from it. “Solar cell” doesn’t mean “tanning bed”; “drainage basin” doesn’t mean “mop bucket”; “forest canopy” doesn’t mean “camping tent”; etc.

The frequent failure of perfect compositional semantics in composite expressions (both N + N and Adj + N) is a persistent theme on this blog.

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