X marrying Y <> Y marrying X?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Sep 12 00:26:36 UTC 2007

At 3:52 PM -0400 9/11/07, Mark Mandel wrote:
>On 9/11/07, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu> wrote:
>>  Exactly.  I use the Dowd passage as part of a homework exercise on
>>  intersective modifiers in Intro Semantics; students are expected to
>>  find the fallacy by adducing examples like "peanut butter" ("He
>>  denies that peanut butter (the second word of which is butter) is
>>  butter"), "sea horse", and "phone sex", but I was thinking of citing
>>  "dwarf planet" as another excellent example, and saved some Op-Ed
>>  pieces that came out just after the astronomers' vote on this.
>Don't know if this matters, but in the three older exx. the modifier
>is a noun used as a noun -- buttery stuff made from peanuts,
>horse-like creature of the sea, sexual activity via phone -- while
>"dwarf planet" is not a planet-like thing inhabited by dwarfs: (I
>assume!): the modifier is an adjective.
True enough, which makes "oral sex" closer, as it were, to "dwarf
planet" than to "phone sex".  (Women are from Venus, men are from
Pluto?)  In any case, the phenomenon of non-intersective modifiers is
pretty robust for both adjectival and nominal modifiers.  Then there
are the "alleged X" and "fake Y" cases, not to mention the family of
related cases we've discussed here--"Bronx cheer", "Jewish
penicillin", "prairie oyster", "Welsh rabbit", "Irish twins", "Greek


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