student-teach: "early" ex.

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Sat Mar 3 03:04:09 UTC 2007

I feel your pain regarding back-formation productivity, Larry, but this ex, caught my eye because undergraduates of the 25th Century (right, if any) may not find it quite so transparent. How will they know it doesn't mean "teach students"? And how will they be sure?

  More to the point, perhaps, we lexicographers are inclined to "recognize" back-formations, even those that are truly transparent, if they are sufficiently prominent. "Student-teach" certainly is, whereas "dog-train," e.g., may not be.

  Finally, the mid 20th C. saw the explosion of such back-formations, at least in print. If the prominent ones aren't listed, the OED will not reflect this phenomenon.

Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU> wrote:
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Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Laurence Horn
Subject: Re: student-teach: "early" ex.

At 5:01 PM -0800 3/2/07, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>Incredibly, this compound backformation isn't in OED.

Given the extreme productivity of back-formation, would we expect
dictionaries to list totally transparent examples like
"student-teach"? What's the usual policy?


> No reason to believe this ex. is truly "early," but it's a start:
> 1967 in Bill Frey _Letters from 'Nam_ (N.Y.: Warner, 1992) 19: Who
>knows maybe I'll student teach at Duquesne High, HA!
> JL
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