rocks and stones

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Wed Nov 19 19:26:17 UTC 2003

I cannot yield to to larry's identification of stone as the substance
and hence the unmarked form.I suspect a dialect difference on just
this matter. Several of his no-good forms (rock house, rock wall) are
OK by me, tough one must be careful of relatively frozen collocations
in such considerations. For example, I have rock walls and rock
fences, but I have the metaphoric verb "stonewall."


At 12:25 PM -0500 11/19/03, Dennis R. Preston wrote:
>It is good that Michael agrees with me, but bad that he is a feature
>promulgater [+/- smooth] would do.
>dInIs (a friend of Occam)
Or perhaps [+/- rough]?  Stone seems more basic, in that it refers
also to the substance--stone (#rock) houses/walls, hearts turned to
stone (#rock).  (Yes, rock garden, but those are gardens with rocks,
not gardens made of rock).  So a rough thingie made of stone is a
rock, otherwise (i.e. in the elsewhere condition) you've got (a)

And then there's the question of whether size matters (and where).
Interestingly the OED does distinguish the British use (which
maintains a distinction) from the U.S. (which neutralizes it),
although it implies that the Brits have been infected by our

I. 1.
a. A large rugged mass of stone forming a cliff, crag, or natural
prominence on land or in the sea.

b. A large detached mass of stone; a boulder; also (orig. U.S.), a
stone of any size. Also freq., a stone used as a projectile.

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