Conversion by truncation (Was Re: No "damage"?)

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Tue Sep 13 15:17:36 UTC 2011

On Sep 13, 2011, at 7:45 AM, Larry Horn wrote:

> Maybe so, but that didn't stop "privates" from ending up with two rather different meanings as a truncated convert.  Presumably context will disambiguate here, as they would be with "All the privates were on display".
> LH

even better: "His privates were on display".

> On Sep 13, 2011, at 8:25 AM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>> But the difference is that "collateral," n., already has a well-recognized
>> meaning, making the truncated "collateral (damage)" seem semantically weird.
>> JL

context will normally disambiguate -- but that depends on the hearer/reader having had some experience with the truncated convert, or being willing to work out what the speaker/writer must have intended.

the two meanings Larry alludes to are, of course, "privates" < "private parts" (from Shakespeare on) and "private" < "private soldier" (18th century on), but OED3 (June 2007) has three more truncations: "private" < "private school" (British public school slang from 1925 on), "private" < "private ward" (colloq. from 1942 on), "private" < "private bar" (Br. colloq. from 1963 on, though that dating seems late to me).


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