Sunday, October 23, 2011

Confusing Compounds

Sometimes compound words should be called confound words. A word processing program's spell-checker will usually red-line incorrect run-on words, but what about other mistakes? Don't expect its help when you leave out a hyphen, put one in, or neglect to join two words to a compounded one.

Just for fun, look at the sets of compound words below, and circle those that are written incorrectly. Are you cool with compounding? Answers follow. 
1.      Workday, workweek, working class, workingclass.
2.      Otherwise, lengthwise, pennywise, weather-wise.
3.      Windstorm, ice storm, waterspout, cold front, rainfall, weathercock, snow ball, weathervane.
4.      Cash box, money-back, paper money, checkbook, moneymaker, catchpenny, money order, pocket money, moneywort.
5.      Boat-rocker, free spirit, dogcatcher, dog handler, commander in chief, policy maker, fat cat, beachcomber, sleepyhead, pussycat, water rat, darkhorse, kill-joy, big boys, watchmaker, beach bum, catnapper, straight shooter, gadabout, beachmaster, double-dealer, freethinker, birth mother, redneck, blood brother, slimeball, fortuneteller, team leader, schoolteacher, free-marketeers, cattlewoman, blue blood, blue-bloods, Big Brother, office boy, chief executive officer, step parents, godfather, dognapper, cat burglar, cave dweller, black belt.
6.      Bird of peace, bird-dog, side horse, sealion, cold duck, hot-dog, jackrabbit, white elephant, workhorses, snake bite, bird dog, waterthrush, Black Angus, kitty-corner, water bug, bullpen, snake oil, dog days, sidewinder, tomcat, blacksnake, screech owl, tabby cat, KittyCat. 

1.      All are correct except workingclass. Working class is a noun. Adjective: working-class.
2.      All are correct except pennywise. No hyphen when wise acts as a suffix to help a word express in the direction of or with regard to. But penny-wise which means good penny management, is hyphenated. Similarily weather-wise refers to one who is wise in forecasting—weather or the outcome of political issues. The following sentence is incorrect: “Weatherwise, last month was as balmy as May.” Most compound weather words are joined: windstorm, waterspout, rainfall, snowball, raindrop, snowflake, and even weatherman. But to confound us, correctly expressed as two words are ice storm and weather cock.

3.      Depending on the dictionary you use, all the money words are correct, but older word processing programs may disagree with moneyman and moneywort. In Canada, the moneywort question is moot. There, the moneywort's common name is creeping Jenny--logically expressed in two words.

4.      This list of people (yes, it lacks political correctness) is too long to make you strain. Although dictionaries differ in some cases, all are correct. But can you define the words? For example, what is the difference between a dognapper and catnapper? Why is Big Brother a proper noun, while commander in chief isn't? Are there cave dwellers in New York City?

5.      Correct--the verbs hot-dog (to perform stunts) and bird-dog, (to watch or follow carefully). Also correct is the noun, bird dog. Snake oil is correct, but if zapped by a snake, you have a snakebite. Joined, Seal plus ion do not make a word. Perhaps that is why sea and lion are separated. Three dictionaries refuse to recognize kitty cat, and especially not as a proper noun. But, KittyCat exists. See? (= ^__^ =). And I suppose he'll post something tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. Bernice, I really enjoyed the Confusing Compounds. Such a great lesson. Thanks for clarifying.