Wrinkle cream

Today’s dialogue between Mother Goose and Grimm:

(#1)

It’s all about the semantic relationship between the two Ns in the N + N compound wrinkle cream.

This is a regular theme on this blog: the great diversity of these semantic relationships, some of them very frequent and productive, others very situation-specific and idiosyncratic.

For cosmetic substances referred to as creams, the N1 + N2 compound X cream has N1 denoting the location where the substance is applied: face cream, skin cream, body cream.

But then there are compounds with opposite semantics: removal compounds like acne cream ‘cream to eliminate acne blemishes’ versus provision compounds like tan cream (as a variant of tanning cream) ‘cream to give the skin a tan’. Wrinkle cream is conventionally a removal compound (the cream is intended to eliminate, or at least reduce, wrinkles), and that’s Mother Goose’s understanding. But Grimm understands it as a provision compound, intended to add wrinkles to the skin.

The provision / removal distinction is familiar from another morphological domain, namely the interpretation of verbings of nouns, where some verbings denote removal (shell the peas) and some denote provision (sauce the roast) — a distinction exploited for humor in the children’s book Amelia Bedelia. From a Mental Floss posting on “Amelia Bedelia-isms”:

In the first Amelia Bedelia book, which is self-titled, Amelia’s employers leave her a list of household chores. This includes “dust the furniture.” She locates the dusting powder in the bathroom (a sign of the times, I suppose — this was first published in 1963) and carefully spreads it over all of the furniture in the house.

The verbing dust is usually a removal verb, but Amelia takes it to be a provision verb — as it in fact is in a different context, in things like the forensic VP dust the wineglass for fingerprints.

On the Amelia books, from Wikipedia:

(#2)

Amelia Bedelia is the protagonist and title character of a series of American children’s books written by Peggy Parish until her death in 1988, and by her nephew, Herman Parish, beginning in 1995. They have been illustrated by Wallace Tripp, Fritz Siebel, and the two current illustrators, Lynn Sweat and Lynne Avril. In 1992 HarperCollins republished the three original ones: Amelia Bedelia, Amelia Bedelia and the Surprise Shower, and Thank You, Amelia Bedelia with illustrations by Barbara Siebel Thomas, daughter of the original illustrator Fritz Siebel.

… The stories involve Amelia Bedelia Rogers repeatedly misunderstanding various commands of her employer by always taking figures of speech and various terminology literally, causing her to perform incorrect actions with a comical effect.

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