"Word" words?

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Fri Apr 25 20:10:09 UTC 2008

When I lived in Los Angeles, I found that people found some such
usages unacceptable. At the counter of a sandwich shop, for example:

Yours truly: I'd like a tunafish sandwich, please.

Counter man: *What* kind?

YT: Tunafish.

CM: [puzzled expression and tone of voice] Tunafish?

YT: Yeah.

CM: [puzzled expression and tone of voice continues]: Uh, what's a
"tunafish" san ...? [Then, big, relieved smile as light dawns] Oh! You
mean a *tuna* sandwich!!!

YT [annoyed as hell and mumbling in anger]: Yeah. I guess so.

And I neither kid nor exaggerate. I had to learn to give up my
thitherto lifelong use of "tunafish" and start using merely "tuna,"
after I got tired of being stared at by counter help as though I were
ET. Like, can a person who normally uses "tuna sandwich" truly be
totally discombobulated by the use of "tuna_fish_ sandwich," instead?

Apparently so.

One of the few pleasures of living on the East Coast is being able to
use "tunafish," again.



On Fri, Apr 25, 2008 at 10:09 AM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
>  Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>  Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>  Subject:      Re: "Word" words?
>  -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>  At 6:50 AM -0700 4/25/08, Guy Letourneau wrote:
>  >Richard Lederer wrote of "word words," which are nouns spoken twice to
>  >indicate that what is meant is the thing in its most ordinary instance.
>  >For example "tea-tea" might be spoken to contrast from ice tea, or
>  >exceptionally exotic preparations.
>  Yes, various papers have been written about this construction, termed
>  alternately "doubles", "contrastive focus reduplication", or "lexical
>  clones".  One place to look is
>  Ghomeshi, Jila, Ray Jackendoff, Nicole Rosen & Kevin Russell (2004).
>  Contrastive focus reduplication in English. Natural Language and
>  Linguistic Theory 22: 307-57.
>  but I've discussed them in various papers myself.  The first
>  systematic analysis is in a master's thesis by Nancy Dray at the U.
>  of Chicago.  This is, in any case, not a discovery by Lederer.
>  >
>  >Some may remember an air freshener ad which named the product an "air
>  >conditioner" in which an exasperated housewife explains "it's not an air
>  >conditioner - air conditioner, it's an air CONDITIONER."
>  >
>  >Anyways, my wife was wondering about writers who append an English
>  >equivalent after a borrowed word. She said she had read of a woman who
>  >'wore a kimono robe and an obi belt.' 'Robe' and 'belt' seemed redundant
>  >to her.
>  >
>  >Any comments? Is there a katana sword, an ushanka hat, or borscht soup?
>  >
>  >- GLL
>  There is, famously, tuna fish. And pinky finger. Then there are the
>  opaque initialisms, like PIN number and ATM machine.  We've discussed
>  these in the past, at (at least) one point fairly extensively.
>  LH
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