Instances of unmodified hair-day

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Sun Feb 13 13:46:33 UTC 2000

I catch you drift pardner. But I assume that "hair day," "bad hair," and
"bad hair day" (and other "derivatives") are all fair game for dating
because of their "special" collocational senses or even "frequency." You
have perhaps done the same for "aardvark foreskin," although it is my
personal hope that it does not catch on.


>In a message dated 2/12/2000 9:16:42 AM, preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU writes:
><< Ron,
>It is very seldom that "words" or "collocations" (as you describe them)
>come from "new" rules (or even "new" subcategorizations of items). If we
>followed your suggestions to the hilt, there would be no search for the
>origins of these "words" and "collocations," while this seems to be the
>major interst of many on this list. Although I am not a participant in this
>dating game, the search, it seems to me, is for the origins of such fully
>licensed constructions, not for "linguistic novelty" in any strictly
>grammatical sesnse.
>dInIs >>
>Well, maybe I didn't make myself clear, or maybe I don't know what I am
>talking about. Let me try one more time.
>New words come into the language all the time. Old words get new meanings.
>New compounds get created (e.g., "hot dog"). All of these are fair game for
>On the other hand, it is a general rule of English that two nouns can be
>placed side by side, and there are ways that these can be (and cannot be)
>interpreted. For example, "aardvark foreskin." It seems to me that it would
>be pointless to try to determine when "aardvark foreskin" was first use in
>English because--in a very real sense--it has been there as long as
>"aardvark" and "foreskin" have been there. I would say the same about "hair
>day." On the other hand, "bad hair" seems to have taken on for some people
>something of the role of a compound. So, to ask "when did 'bad hair'" first
>come into American English with its specialized meaning is NOT a meaningless

Dennis R. Preston
Department of Linguistics and Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA
preston at
Office: (517)353-0740
Fax: (517)432-2736

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