The moving sale

From Karen Chung on Facebook a while back, this complex pun in the 9/25/15 Bizarro, illustrating (among other things) a nice contrast in accentual patterns: front stress (or forestress), the default for N + N compounds, in MOVING saleback stress (or afterstress), the default in Adj + N nominals, in moving SALE:


(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 5 in this strip — see this Page.)

So the hinge of the pun is the ambiguity of moving: as N, (roughly) ‘the act or process of changing residence’; or as Adj, (roughly) ‘causing strong emotion, esp. of sadness’ (both senses are ultimately semantic developments from the simple motion verb move, intransitive or transitive; but they are now clearly distinct lexical items). Then from the difference in syntactic category follows the difference in accentual pattern.

Accentual patterns in N-headed composites. The difference in accentual patterns is well-known, but also notoriously complex. I provide a fairly detailed account in

“Forestress and afterstress”, on accent in English noun-noun compounds (OSU Working Papers in Linguistics, 1986).

(Yes, in a very obscure place indeed. I could find no journal that would publish this piece 33 years ago — it was seen, unfairly I think, as too “taxonomic”, merely an organized accumulation of data, not of theoretical interest — and now I think it would be even harder. Fortunately, however, it’s been publicly available via this blog for some years.)

To see some of the complexity, look at one very tiny corner of this world: N1 + N2 compounds referring to thoroughfares, to roads or paths between two places. The main facts are an exercise in defaults and overrides.

The primary distinction is an echo of the compound vs. adjective distinction above, but now separating common vs. proper thoroughfare Ns:

a common thoroughfare N ‘N2 somehow related to N1’ –for example, hummingbird lane referring to a lane where we often see hummingbirds — is accented like a compound, with “compound stress”:

front stress, or forestress, as in HUMMINGBIRD lane

a proper thoroughfare N ‘N2 named after N1 (where N1 can be common or proper)’ — for example, Hummingbird Lane (or Harrison Lane) — is accented with the “adjective stress” pattern of expressions like picturesque lane:

back stress, or afterstress, as in Hummingbird / Harrison LANE

— a pattern that holds for most thoroughfare N2s (Avenue, Road, Way, Boulevard, Alley, Court, Drive, Vista, Parkway, Terrace, Circle, etc.)

These are the defaults. However, things are different for one distinguished N2 in proper thoroughfare names:

but if the N2 in a proper thoroughfare name is Street — as in Hummingbird Street (and Harrison Street) — then the pattern is front stress (HUMMINGBIRD / HARRISON Street)

And as a more general override for both types of thoroughfare names:

but contrastive accent overrides everything:

It’s HUMMINGBIRD Lane, not HAMMERHEAD Lane (against the expected back stress for N1 + Lane)

It’s Hummingbird / Harrison STREET, not AVENUE (against the expected front stress for N1 + Street)

As I said, this is just one little piece from a much larger set of facts, some of them involving alternative stressings for a single N1 + N2 — alternatives within one person’s speech (I have both cherry PIE and CHERRY pie in noncontrastive uses) and alternatives between individuals, up to different stressings for a particular combination in different sociolects (for the proper name Hamilton House: generally HAMILTON House in AmE, Hamilton HOUSE in BrE).

(In any case, a bit more of this world is exposed in my 1/27/19 posting “hunter gatherers”, about yet another Bizarro cartoon.)

Lexicographic digression. Getting back to the Bizarro in #1: I consulted NOAD to see how it dealt with the N vs. Adj ambiguity of moving, and was startled to find only one entry, for:

adj. moving: 1 [often with submodifier] in motion: a fast-moving river. 2 producing strong emotion, especially sadness or sympathy: an unforgettable and moving book. 3 relating to the process of changing one’s residence: moving expenses. 4 [attributive] US involving a moving vehicle: tickets for moving violations.

Sense 3 here is the one in moving sale as on the sign in #1, and though moving functions as a modifier in this combination, so do all N1s in N1 + N2 compounds; that doesn’t make them Adjs. Sense 2 is clearly an Adj: moving there can take degree modifiers, as in a very moving book, and it can coordinate with indisputable Adjs, as in NOAD‘s an unforgettable and moving book. But moving in moving expenses looks straightforwardly like a N: it can compound with another N, as in house-moving expenses, and it can coordinate with indisputable Ns, as in moving and redecoration expenses.

There is in fact no NOAD entry for a N moving. In general, NOAD lacks separate entries for –ing nominalizations (abstract Ns derived from PRP forms of Vs), because most of them are fully productive and semantically transparent; so there are no separate entries for the Ns jumping, singing, falling, vanishing, eating, hitting, … When the makers of the dictionary thought that a particular –ing nominalization had sufficiently specialized uses, they set up a separate entry for it, as they did with some uses of running and making. That’s exactly what they should have done with moving ‘the process of changing one’s residence’. For some reason I cannot fathom they inserted this sense of the N moving in the entry for the Adj moving.

Bonus: fictional addresses. N1 + N2 thoroughfare names aren’t particularly photogenic, so I didn’t have much of visual interest to jazz up this posting (bloggers are forever being exhorted to POST PICTURES). But they do occur in addresses; some addresses have sociocultural lives of their own (10 Downing Street, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue); and the buildings those addresses refer to are often prominent elements of visual popular culture. In particular, there are famous fictional addresses in popular culture, some of them associated with recognizable houses in television programs and movies.

First, a radio address (obviously not available in pictures), to give you a feel for the name domain here: 79 Wistful Vista, the address for the Fibber McGee and Molly radio show.

Then the Bewitched house. From the website for the show:


(#2) 1164 Morning Glory Circle (from Bewitched, 1964-72)

“At The Ranch: Home To 1164 Morning Glory Circle” (in West Connecticut)

The house we have all come to know and love as Darrin & Samantha’s still stands today (the exterior) at the Warner Brothers Ranch (originally Screen Gems/Columbia), West Oak Street in Burbank, California. The house really is situated on a “circle”, along with many other famous homes used for other TV shows. I always think of the ranch as the “feel good neighborhood”, as all the shows made in that wonderful sunny spot just give you a good feeling! One house, to the left of Darrin and Sam’s while facing it was the “Gidget” house, home to Professor Russell Lawrence (Don Porter) and his daughter “Gidget” (Sally Field) in 1965 (Sally later returned to the ranch to film some scenes of her series “The Flying Nun (1967-1970) as well as “The Girl With Something Extra” (1973-1974), a show about a girl who could read people’s minds. This same house was also used for episodes of Bewitched including “Mrs. Parsons'” house (home to all the cats!) and Pleasure O’Reilly’s house, a sexy next door neighbor. The TV show “The Monkees” (1966-1968) filmed exterior shots of the guys being wacky on the ranch too!  Sunset Gower Studios The old show “Hazel” also used the Gidget exterior, as well as the Jerry Lewis movie “Hook, Line & Sinker”.

Also from the 1960s in tvland, Rob and Laura Petrie’s house at 148 Bonnie Meadow Road, New Rochelle NY — never, apparently, in an exterior shot, but used in interior shots in almost every show:


(#3) Laura, Rob, and Ritchie Petrie in the living room of 148 Bonnie Meadow Road (from The Dick Van Dyke Show, 1961-66)

Moving forward a bit in time, to the Partridge Family house. From c’mon, get happy! (the unofficial website of the Partridge family):


(#4) 698 Sycamore Road, San Pueblo CA (from The Partridge Family, 1970-74)

The Partridge Family home can be found on the 40-acre backlot of the Warner Bros. Studio Ranch, located at 3701 West Oak Street, Burbank, California. This lot and its neighborhood of homes (known officially as “Blondie Street” after the early movie serial that followed the adventures of Blondie and Dagwood Bumstead) has been in use for about 50 years and can be seen in a variety of television shows and films — in fact, often at the same time! For example, during the run of “Bewitched”, Samantha and Darrin’s nosy neighbor Mrs. Kravitz also lived in the Partridge home. “The Partridge Family” debuted before “Bewitched” ended its run, so for two seasons, … the Partridges and the Kravitz[es] shared a home!

Leaping on to the magical mansion of turn-of-this-century San Francisco:


(#4) Halliwell Manor, 1329 Prescott Street, San Francisco (from Charmed, 1998-2006)

The Victorian building filmed as the Halliwell Manor is located at Carroll Avenue in Los Angeles, California. In the series, the fictional manor is set in San Francisco

One more, from this century, but a house of considerable vintage:


(#5) The house of Katherine Mayfair (played by Dana Delany) on Wisteria Lane (in the fictional town of Fairview in the fictional Eagle State), as seen on the “mystery comedy-drama” series Desperate Housewives (2004-12) from 2007 to 2010

The set for Wisteria Lane, consisting mainly of facades but also of some actual houses, was located on the Universal Studios Hollywood back lot. It was referred to by film crews as Colonial Street, and has been used for several motion pictures and television shows since the mid-1940s. Notable productions that were filmed here include: So Goes My Love, Leave it to Beaver, The ‘Burbs, Providence, Deep Impact, Bedtime for Bonzo, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Gremlins, The Munsters, Psycho, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the Doris Day comedies The Thrill of It Alland Send Me No Flowers.

Wistful Vista, Morning Glory Circle, Bonnie Meadow Road, Sycamore Road, Wisteria Lane — all with back stress, but Prescott Street with front stress.

3 Responses to “The moving sale”

  1. bebopple Says:

    memorable and complex beyond my linguistic skills… thank you

  2. Robert Coren Says:

    The fact that the stress pattern for thoroughfares with street in their names was exceptional was something I had never thought about until I noticed that the automated announcements on the local buses had not taken this into account, and were giving “streets” the same kind of emphasis as “avenues”, “roads”, etc. Sometime in the last couple of years they appear to fixed this.

  3. Robert Coren Says:

    The address of the house in which most of the (original) British drama series Upstairs, Downstairs took place was,I believe, 165 Eaton Place, When my husband and I visited London sometime in the 1980s(?), we tried to find the address in question, and discovered that although there is in fact an Eaton Place in London, the house numbers on it never get out of double digits.

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