Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Wed Jan 28 03:13:34 UTC 2009

On Tue, Jan 27, 2009 at 9:35 PM, Victor <aardvark66 at gmail.com> wrote:
> Laurence Horn wrote:
>> This is very impressive searching, Victor. I wouldn't have known how
>> to begin looking for exemplars of this pattern. To me, Jon's
>> "hippie-looking" and the "animal-looking" one below seem a bit more
>> likely because the nouns in question pattern and/or look a bit like
>> adjectives, compared with 'dog-looking' or 'cat-looking'. (Compare,
>> for example, "animal magnetism", which looks like an adj-n phrase
>> even though "animal" is a noun here; probably the -al ending helps
>> this illusion. And "hippie" has that /-i/ ending typical of
>> adjectives. So for me, "kitty-looking" or "puppy-looking" seem less
>> anomalous than "cat-looking" and "dog-looking" respectively. Not to
>> mention Mark's "sperm-looking". Not that I can confirm this
>> empirically: there are just three hits for "puppy-looking guy" (one
>> from a Christian singles ad; apparently this is seen as an appealing
>> trait) but 497 for Victor's "dog-looking guy" (definitely not a
>> turn-on).
> I am not surprised that "puppy-looking guy" did not generate much.
> However, if you try "puppy-looking eyes" (as in, "Harrison
> Ford"--although the two do not occur together), that gets 346 raw hits
> (only 37 actual hits, with a couple that did not work), some hyphenated,
> some not.
> I may not be much of a linguist, but I'd like to think of myself as a
> reasonably good researcher in other venues [trying not to strain my
> shoulder while patting myself on the back]. However, in this case, I was
> going by brute force and intuition, not by any particular insights into
> the nature of the phenomenon. I tried "animal looking" and "death
> looking" first because they seemed like the most likely candidates. Even
> then, I was wondering about "animal" being treated as a
> pseudo-adjective, exactly as you described. That produced a few hits. I
> had actually ruled out "hippie-looking" because "hippie" looked too much
> like an adjective.

It can not only look like one but act like one too (OED: "Of,
pertaining to, or characteristic of hippies").

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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