"unring" etc.

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Dec 7 17:48:53 UTC 2007

At 9:07 AM -0500 12/7/07, Charles Doyle wrote:
>Not really analogous to "unring," but . . .
>I was reading a spy thriller, and I came upon this clause (part of
>an interior monolog of a megalomaniac): ". . . undreamed-of power
>would be his." For some reason, my mind balked at "undreamed-of";
>for a couple of seconds, I tried to read "undreamed" as
>"under-armed." (For one thing, the character IS, obviously,
>"dreaming" of such power!)
>The OED gives two 17th-century instances of the phrase "undreamed
>of" (without the hyphen). Google produces 233,000 hits for the
>phrase (with or without the hyphen, which a Google search doesn't
>My difficulty, I believe, concerned constituents: The phrase is
>really "un(dreamed-of)," but, of course, we have no standard
>punctuation to represent that structure. I think, though, I would
>write "un-dreamed-of" (Google yields some 900 hits for that
>construction, some of them for "un-dreamed of").
And then there are the much more common preposition-stranding
un-participles, starting with "unheard-of", although there are no
unplanned-for axillary allusions in that one.


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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