box set

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Thu Jan 31 00:59:38 UTC 2002

In a message dated 01/30/2002 5:24:59 PM Eastern Standard Time,
einstein at FROGNET.NET writes:

> There are a number of well-established noun adjuncts like "baby carriage,"
>  gas station," "government agency" which may be used as the models for "can
>  food drive," "L. I. ice tea" and the like.  They are gaining acceptance
>  although the individual ones like "box set" or "bottle water" may strike us
>  as novel.

I think that there are three separate processes that can contribute to the
dropping of the past participle suffix.

1) phonetic.  There is a limit to what even native speakers of English can
accomplish.  In "boxed set", even by English language standards, the phonetic
combination /ksts/ is preposterous.  Try saying it out loud.  You will either
say /bahkset/ or have to insert a noticeable pause before the /s/ of set.
Similarly with "iced tea".  To pronounce it as /aisdtee/ requires you to quit
voicing a stop (plosive) halfway through, which I suppose can be done but
which is not a normal phonetic pattern in English.

2) doubt on the speaker's part about the putative verb.  "iced cream", by
analogy with ice tea, would be cream with ice cubes floating in it.  "Ice
cream", on the other hand, is a once-liquid dairy product that has been
frozen solid.  Or consider "corned beef", which many people, I am sure,
render as "corn beef" becasue they are unaware of the meaning, or even the
existence, of the verb "to corn".  Or "chipped beef", which might become
"chip beef" if the speaker did not realize that beef, like tree trunks, can
be "chipped."  (I have even heard "cream chip beef".)

3) occasionally there is the influence of a similar-sounding expression.  For
"box set" the speaker may unwittingly draw an analogy with "box seat".

              - Jim Landau

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