Scarecrow and pickpocket are compound words that name things and people by describing what they do. Such nouns were especially popular centuries ago, when quake-breech meant a coward, a saddle-goose was a fool, a scrape-gut was a violinist, and tanglelegs meant strong alcohol. The linguistic term for such terms is a mouthful: agentive and instrumental exocentric verb-noun compounds. Linguist Brianne Hughes, who has studied them extensively, calls them cutthroat compounds, the word cutthroat being another case in point. She’s collected more than 1200 cutthroat compounds at her website, Encyclopedia Briannica. This is part of a complete episode.
- Cootie Shot (episode #1510) 12/10/2018: Perfect sentences and slang that tickles your mind! A new book of writing advice says a good sentence "imposes a logic on the world's weirdness"... [more]
- Bottled Sunshine (episode #1512) 11/19/2018: If you catch your blue jeans on a nail, you may find yourself with a winklehawk. This term, adapted into English from Dutch, means "an... [more]
- Care Package (episode #1511) 11/12/2018: Sending someone a care package shows you care, of course. But the first care packages were boxes of food and personal items for survivors of... [more]
- Ding-Ding Man (episode #1509) 10/29/2018: In 1803, a shy British pharmacist wrote a pamphlet that made him a reluctant celebrity. The reason? He proposed a revolutionary new system for classifying... [more]
- Take Tea for the Fever (episode #1508) 10/22/2018: Silence comes in many forms. Writer Paul Goodman says there is, for example, the noisy silence of "resentment and self-recrimination," and the helpful, participatory silence... [more]