Author Topic: Surprisingly literal compound words in the English language  (Read 1037 times)

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Offline Drunken Idaho

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Surprisingly literal compound words in the English language
« on: February 07, 2017, 07:47:06 PM »
I'll start:

MANHOLE

I stepped on a manhole cover today, considered the word for a second, and I've been laughing at it all day. The meaning is clear, and not in itself funny--it's just that I've always called it a "manhole" without really considering it being "hole for people."  :laugh:  Other similar words (flagpole) seem totally normal, because I've always associated the words and their meaning to the thing itself--but for some reason, not "manhole." Any other words tickle you like this?
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Offline wastrel

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Re: Surprisingly literal compound words in the English language
« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2017, 08:30:30 PM »
In the telcom world, we have both manholes, large enough for a person to go down, and handholes, which are only large enough to reach in and pull a splice out.

I've always enjoyed upside down and inside out.  Those are some of the most literal phrases I can think of.

Offline Drunken Idaho

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Re: Surprisingly literal compound words in the English language
« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2017, 08:38:11 PM »
I've always enjoyed upside down and inside out.  Those are some of the most literal phrases I can think of.

Hah! Yes! Perfect.
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Offline Andrew Clunn

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Re: Surprisingly literal compound words in the English language
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2017, 09:49:28 PM »
Fireplace.  It's the place for the fire.

I literally thought it was two words instead of a single one until the fourth grade.
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Offline Drunken Idaho

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Re: Surprisingly literal compound words in the English language
« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2017, 09:57:54 PM »
Fireplace.  It's the place for the fire.

I literally thought it was two words instead of a single one until the fourth grade.

Lol. It sounds so infantile when you think about it.
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Offline brilligtove

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Re: Surprisingly literal compound words in the English language
« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2017, 10:38:21 PM »
Breakfast
Bedtime
Hatrack
Sunrise
Sunset
Shampoo



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Offline Drunken Idaho

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Re: Surprisingly literal compound words in the English language
« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2017, 10:44:21 PM »
Heh, hat rack is two words here. I've always liked "breakfast." I think I learned at a very young age its breakdown, and always liked the word for it.

Shampoo?
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Offline brilligtove

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Re: Surprisingly literal compound words in the English language
« Reply #7 on: February 07, 2017, 11:14:57 PM »
Heh, hat rack is two words here. I've always liked "breakfast." I think I learned at a very young age its breakdown, and always liked the word for it.

Shampoo?

Calling that poo is a total sham.
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Offline Tassie Dave

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Re: Surprisingly literal compound words in the English language
« Reply #8 on: February 07, 2017, 11:25:48 PM »

Offline brilligtove

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Re: Surprisingly literal compound words in the English language
« Reply #9 on: February 07, 2017, 11:37:17 PM »
Oh my. Sports:

Baseball
Football
Handball
Racketball
Basketball
Downhill skiing (the first part not the second)

Crossbow
Teargas

Bluenose (dolphin, schooner)
Humpback (whale, person)

Songwriter

Housewares

Questionable:
- Hardware
- Software
- Wetware

Tankhouse
Winegum
Photoshop
 

I'd like to say angry words like clusterfuck and shitstorm should count, but since the curse part of the word is almost always metaphorical I'll withdraw, your honour.

Hrm. Let's continue the stream of sequiturs, shall we?

Draw.

Drawbridge
Undertow
Riptide
Sideshow
Gaslight
Lightbulb
Sunshine
Moonshine
Bathtub
Bathsalts > Pepperpot > Potash
Crockpot
Crackpot
Crackhead
Headcase
     - Branch: headache toothache stomachache
Suitcase
Briefcase
Caselaw
Coleslaw (borrowed from not English, but literally means cabbage salad)
Icehouse
Hothouse
Greenhouse
Greenway
Driveway
Parkway
...

Yeah, I'm'a stop now.









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Offline Tassie Dave

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Re: Surprisingly literal compound words in the English language
« Reply #10 on: February 07, 2017, 11:57:03 PM »
Greenhouse

Not green or a house  ;)

Footpath, and it's US equivalent Sidewalk

Offline brilligtove

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Re: Surprisingly literal compound words in the English language
« Reply #11 on: February 08, 2017, 12:12:46 AM »
Greenhouse

Not green or a house  ;)

Footpath, and it's US equivalent Sidewalk

It is a housing for greenery - a green house. Perhaps not literal enough, however.
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Offline arthwollipot

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Re: Surprisingly literal compound words in the English language
« Reply #12 on: February 08, 2017, 12:28:28 AM »
Fireplace.  It's the place for the fire.

I literally thought it was two words instead of a single one until the fourth grade.

Lol. It sounds so infantile when you think about it.

I've always thought the same thing about "airplane", which we in Commonwealth countries still call an "aeroplane".

Offline brilligtove

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Re: Surprisingly literal compound words in the English language
« Reply #13 on: February 08, 2017, 01:24:15 AM »
Fireplace.  It's the place for the fire.

I literally thought it was two words instead of a single one until the fourth grade.

Lol. It sounds so infantile when you think about it.

I've always thought the same thing about "airplane", which we in Commonwealth countries still call an "aeroplane".

As with so many things, Canadians are bi- on that word. We usually use "airplane" in writing, but (at least where I live) we say both 'air-o-plane' and 'air-plane'.
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Offline Gravity Allen

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Re: Surprisingly literal compound words in the English language
« Reply #14 on: February 08, 2017, 02:19:11 AM »
Heh, hat rack is two words here. I've always liked "breakfast." I think I learned at a very young age its breakdown, and always liked the word for it.

Shampoo?

It's important not to let orthography fool you: "hatrack," whether spelled with a space, no space, or a hyphen, counts as a word -- a compound word, for sure, but still a word in and of itself. Notice its stress profile: there's only one instance of primary stress, on the first syllable (so, it's ['hæʔɹæk], not ['hæʔ'ɹæk]), which is characteristic of English wordhood; compare, say, the compound "blackbird," with only one instance of primary stress on the first syllable, to the phrase "black bird," which has two instances (the same goes for "greenhouse" vs. "green house").

A quick rule-of-thumb is to notice that you've got two nouns, and that noun-noun compounding in English is highly productive, meaning you're likely dealing with a compound. Moreover, while its meaning is transparent enough, it isn't necessarily so; the word could have just as easily come to mean a rack shaped like a hat, or one made out of hats, or something even more creative.