The toy poodle

Yet another cartoon — and there are more in the queue.

Today’s Mother Goose and Grimm, with a cute play on the ambiguity of toy:

NOAD2 on the noun toy:

1 an object for a child to play with, typically a model or miniature replica of something: [as modifier] : a toy car.

2 [as modifier] denoting a diminutive breed or variety of dog: a toy poodle.

So: two readings for toy poodle, both N + N compounds with accent on the head (second) N. The large-scale generalizations are that Adj + N combinations have the primary accent on the head (“phrasal accent / stress”) and that N + N combinations have it on the modifier (first) N “compound accent / stress”), but there are significant subgeneralizations, systematic exceptions, and idiosyncratic exceptions. In this case, both the ‘poodle that is a toy, toy in the shape of a poodle’ reading (the one that Grimm understands) and the ‘poodle that is small (like a toy), poodle that is toy-like (in size)’ reading (the one appropriate for a pet store) are associated with accent on the head.

The two senses/uses above are clearly related, with the second being a specialization of the first, elevating the smallness component in typical toys to central semantic status.

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