Mark A. Mandel Mark_Mandel at DRAGONSYS.COM
Tue Apr 10 16:34:34 UTC 2001

Thomas Paikeday <t.paikeday at SYMPATICO.CA> writes:

I think "box of matches" and "match box" have identical meanings.

I don't. A match box can be, and often is, an empty box that originally
held, and was manufactured to hold, matches. A box OF MATCHES cannot be
empty. The "of"-phrase makes the whole phrase quantitative.

     Joe: "Get me a box of matches."
     Moe: "Here."
     Joe: "Whaddaya mean, dummy, this box is empty!"

To be sure, it's not purely quantitative. A box of matches is expected to
be in a box, rather more strongly than a cup of water is expected to be in
a cup.

     Dave: "Get me a box of matches."
     HAL:  "Here you are, Dave."
     Dave: "HAL, I can't hold 200 matches in my hands and still work,
           and they'll get into everything if they're loose.
            I want them in their box."
           [Let's not get into the inadvisability of lighting matches in a
            spaceship in free fall.]

The pressure on "match box" to refer to an empty box is not absolute but
IMHO is still pretty strong, because the head is "box".

     Jean: "What I need is a matchbox."
     Gene: "Here."
     Jean: "Thanks, I guess, but I need to store these pins,
           and this box is full of matches."

   Mark A. Mandel : Dragon Systems, a Lernout & Hauspie company
          Mark_Mandel at : Senior Linguist
 320 Nevada St., Newton, MA 02460, USA :

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