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The compounding of English words

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Pages: 158

Book format: An electronic version of a printed book that can be read on a computer or handheld device designed specifically for this purpose.

Publisher: Date:8/5/2009 - General Books LLC

By: Francis Horace Teall

Excerpt from book: CHAPTER III. IDIOMATIC PHRASES. It would seem an easy logical decision that any arrangement of words in regular grammatical construction must be correctly written as a succession of separate words, since rules of grammar and word-classification must be made in accordance with recognized and established uses of words in their normal relations. It is not hard to find evidence, however, that this proposition, the very simplest possible about language in its primary use, does not always present itself to the presumably scholarly mind with sufficient force to secure the credence to which it is unquestionably entitled. A forcible illustration of the fact that a scholar may be misled to a remarkable extent by hasty impressions is found in the following, from " Philology of the English Tongue," by the Rev. John Earle, an Oxford professor. He is treating of what he classes as one of three orders of English compounds, the running together of all the words of a phrase in normal construction : " The chief symbol which threads together [such] compounds ... is the preposition ' of,' as coat-of-arms, will-o'- the-wisp, cat-o'-nine-tails, n1au-of-war, light-o'-love, ticketof-leave. The distinction between compounds and constructs is a delicate one, so much so that two persons of like birth and education may be found to differ upon it. When however we see the of abraded to o', or when we hear it in speech, as we often hear man-o'-war, then there is no doubt of the compound state of that expression. This class of compounds is essentially French, and it is from our neighbors that we have caught the art of making them. Thus we say after them: — lvord-of-command mot-d'ordre, point-of- honor point-d'honneur. But the instances in which we make use of it are far less numerous than those in which...  

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