"finesse", the adjective

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Aug 10 00:37:48 UTC 2012

On Aug 9, 2012, at 7:14 PM, Ben Zimmer wrote:

> On Thu, Aug 9, 2012 at 4:50 PM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at att.net> wrote:
>> An article in the Boston Globe today about the forthcoming US-Japan
>> soccer gold medal match says "In a tournament that has featured
>> extreme physicality, sucker punches and even head stomping, Wambach
>> doesn't expect a similar strategy by the finesse Japanese squad ...".
> Here's a Language Log post I wrote in 2005 about the attributive use
> of "finesse" in football and baseball:
> http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/002677.html
Attributive use, yes, but in those cases of "finesse team" arguably not "finesse, the adjective", given the oddness of ?"That team really seems finesse", anymore than Ben's apt antonym for it, "power team".  In Joel's example, though, it seemed to me, at first glance at least, that "Japanese squad" is an adj + noun combo, and a modifier of that would seem to have to be an adjective.  But on second glance maybe not; Arnold would be our indigenous expert on these matters.  The impossibility of "The Japanese squad seems finesse" would suggest that in "the finesse Japanese squad" too "finesse" is a noun rather than an adjective, but is "the power American squad" even possible?  Note that this wouldn't mean the same as "the powerful American squad"; after all, a finesse (and hence non-power) team can be powerful, like the old San Francisco 49ers from the 1980s, and a power running attack can be anything but powerful, like that of last season's N. Y. Jets.


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