Archive for the ‘Synthetic compounds’ Category

Understanding the comics

February 22, 2017

Once again, I return to the question of what you have to know to understand a comic strip or a cartoon, with two recent cartoons in my comics feed, a Rhymes With Orange and a Bizarro; in both, understanding requires that you supply a word that isn’t in the text of the cartoon:




The family that fund-raises together

January 17, 2016

From a Gail Collins column “Everything’s Relative” in the NYT on the 14th, about political candidates engaging their families in their campaigns:

Remember Jeb? He was going to run as his own man, but people on the campaign mailing list are getting requests for donations from George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Barbara Bush, George P. Bush and Columba Bush [Jeb’s father, brother, mother, son, and wife, respectively]. The family that fund-raises together stays together.

Collins chose to use the 2-part back-formed V (2pbfV) fund-raises rather than the phrase raises funds, and (though a fair number of people, including some language critics, are deeply hostile to 2pbfVs, as unnecessary innovations) in my opinion that was an excellent choice: fund-raises describes an activity that is more unitary, and more specific, than raises funds. There’s a distinction here that’s come up on this blog several times, and there’s also a general principle at work, a principle I’ll call Structural Tightness.


PSP synthetic compounds

July 31, 2015

From Ned Deily on Facebook, this report in the Advocate of the coming-out of Lutheran Bishop Kevin Kanouse at a youth conference:

Kanouse recounted the experience in a letter to local leadership, which was published online this week. In the document, he wrote he was “Holy Spirit-moved to tell my own story publicly, for the first time,” after hearing the emotional stories recounted by young people at the conference, concerning the role of God in their lives.

The point of linguistic (rather than gay) interest here is the PSP synthetic compound Holy Sprit-moved ‘moved by the Holy Spirit’, with the PSP in passive function.


Morphology Friday 2: back-formed freedom-fight

October 3, 2014

Today’s Doonesbury blast from the past:


Start with the synthetic compounds freedom fighter and freedom fighting. From which by back-formation comes a verb to freedom-fight, of the form N + V. Which then has a PST using the PST of its head fight: freedom-fought. Voilà.


October 4, 2013

In the latest (October 7th) New Yorker, a Talk of the Town piece, “Dept. of Accumulation: Ballhawks” by Reeves Wiedeman, beginning:

Zack Hample caught his first major-league baseball when he was twelve — a defining moment in most American childhoods, but one that left him unsatisfied. If I can catch one ball, he thought, why not a thousand? Two decades later, a thirty-six-year-old bookstore clerk, with a shaved head and a soul patch, he is now the world’s preëminent ballhawk.



August 24, 2013

Just posted on “Men and their pickles”, which brings me to (actual) pickles and (figurative, sexual) pickles.  It’s well in advance of National Pickle Day (November 14th), but here’s a pile of (cucumber) pickles to tide you over:



Annals of back-formation

August 7, 2013

Two recent contributions, of different sorts, from friends: to truck-chase and to harsh-parent.


Brief mention: “You onion-peel so slowly”

July 24, 2013

Said by character Dani Santino to character Nico Careles in the episode “V3 for Vendetta” (7/17/13) of the cable tv series Necessary Roughness. Taking the two-part back-formation to onion-peel into new, figurative, territory.


Another OBH roundup

May 16, 2013

From Benita Bendon Campbell, three more One Big Happy strips: on questions, compound nouns, and tense in nouns. And then, as a bonus, four strips on Ruthie’s interpretations of words.


Yet another synthetic compound / back-formation

April 16, 2013

… 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.