New coinage?

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Tue Aug 9 04:24:39 UTC 2005

On Mon, 8 Aug 2005 23:47:39 -0400, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>

>At 10:31 PM -0400 8/8/05, RonButters at AOL.COM wrote:
>>Well, isn't it the case that compounding is by definition highly
>>productive, and in English the distinction between nouns and verbs is
>>very flexible--so that listing all actually occurring constructions that
>>resemble "name-call" (v) makes only a little more sense as listing all
>>the relative clauses that occur?
>>I don't object to OED listing as many as possible, of course, but I are
>>antedatings of such forms in any way important or linguistically
>also, aren't we calling these "back-formations" anymore?  (I always
>trot out examples like "stage-manage", "cherry-pick", and "baby-sat"
>to illustrate back-formation in class.)

"N-V" back-formations from deverbal compounds "N-Ving" or "N-Ver" are not
uncommon, but I think they're notable enough to warrant lexicographic
recognition. And I'd say "name-call" is even more notable, since it
doesn't fall easily into one of the typical categories of such
back-formations, e.g.:

1) N is the recipient of trans V (bartend, bootlick, copy-edit, housekeep,

2) N is the instrument of trans V (bottle-feed, bow-hunt, finger-pick,
pan-broil, spear-fish)

3) N has a locative relationship to intrans V (sky-dive, star-gaze,

"Name-call" is similar to type #1, except that V is ditransitive-- there's
an implied indirect object, which becomes the direct object of N-V when
used transitively (call s.o. a name -> name-call s.o.)  Off the top of my
head, I can't think of any other back-formations that work this way
(though I'm sure they're out there).

--Ben Zimmer

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