The brainchild behind

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Mon May 6 18:27:14 UTC 2013

> On May 6, 2013, at 10:20 AM, Ben Zimmer wrote:
>> On Mon, May 6, 2013 at 9:23 AM, Neal Whitman wrote:
>>> On NPR this morning, a story about the dismal run of a Spice Girls in London said
>>> that the show's creator was also "the brainchild behind" the musical Mamma Mia.
>>> A Google search for "the brainchild behind" brings up a number of hits I can't
>>> determine on my phone screen, but I notice that the first one is from Brian's Usage
>>> Errors, explaining that some people misuse "brainchild" in this way. In any case, it
>>> was new to me.
>>> Checking with Google Ngrams, I see that "brainchild behind" is on the rise, but still
>>> very rare compared to "brainchild of". I had to magnify the results 50x before
>>> it appeared as something other than a flat line:*50&year_start=1900&year_end=2008&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=
>> And see the discussion of "brainchild" we had in Jan. '08:
> My only emendation to that discussion is that I'd nominate "brains (behind)"
> as the causal link rather than "brain" or "mastermind" (even though the
> semantics would be basically the same).  Of course you can also have
> "the brains of the operation", but "the brains behind the operation" is
> not uncommon either.

It appears that the modifier "child" is being ignored. Why?

Hypothesis: "brainchild" is re-interpreted as "brainy child". A
semantic nexus for "prodigy" already exists for many people. One
definition for prodigy is: A person, especially. a young one, endowed
with exceptional abilities. The term "brainy child" intersects with
this nexus, and so the user of the term "brainchild" decides it can be
applied to adults and children.


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