Page images

the students at Stanford the nouns bawl-out 'the term directory,' hold-over ‘a student whose year does not end at Commencement time,' jolly-up ‘a social gathering,' and smoke-up ‘a mid-term warning,' are especially favored. Business men are apt to use such combination-nouns as cleanup a profitable transaction, come-back ‘recourse, retaliation,' lay-off *temporary dismissal of workmen,' lockout, rake-off, stand-in, walk-out, etc. In the realm of sport one frequently meets with such terms as frame-up ‘conspiracy,' show-down (a card term), kick-off, line-up, touchdown (foot-ball terms), rub-down, set-to, take-off, etc. Even the automobile vocabulary contains a few combination-nouns such as blow-out, break-down, cut-out, smash-up, also raceabout, runabout, tourabout, altho, of course, some of these are not confined exclusively to automobile usage.

For reasons not always easy to explain some of these nouns have come to be applied to persons, some are impersonal concrete nouns, while a few may be either concrete or abstract, tho, as has been shown above, the majority are still either pure gerunds or infinitive forms used to express or name actions or states. Examples of personal nouns are cutup one who plays pranks,' gadabout, roustabout, stand-by. Of imperisonal concrete nouns of this sort good examples are cut-out ‘an automobile attachment,' get-:1p 'dress, array,' hand-out ‘food or clothing given to a beggar,' knockabout (cf. runabout, etc., above), lean-to, lockup ‘a jail,' passover, pop-over, shakedown ‘an improvised bed,' slip-over ‘a sleeve less sweater popularized by the recent work of the Red Cross,' turnabout ‘a merry-go-round,' turnover, write-up, etc. Some few of these nouns have both concrete and abstract significations as in the case of lookout, which may signify either a person engaged in watching, a place from which to watch, or, the act of watching,' or take-off the place from which a jumper leaps, or, a burlesque,' or turnout 'equipage, or, act of gathering (as applied to persons).'

A few combination nouns, while essentially verbal nouns, are rarely if ever used as verbs. Such are hocdown and breakdown meaning ‘a noisy, rapid, shuffling dance,' rake-off, roustabout, and show-down.

A few of these nouns have even developed so far as to be susceptible of plural inflection. “We've heard considerable about these goings-on down in Hookerville,” says one of the characters in H. Finn (78). Hangers-on and lookers-on may have been influenced by the earlier onlookers, while it is almost imperative that one should be able to pluralize such concrete nouns as dugout, hand-out, leftover, runabout, slip-over, etc.

One interesting modern development, hand-me-down ‘a ready-made garment,' should be regarded rather as the substantivation of a phrase than the mere adaptation of a verb-adverb combination.

It is difficult to decide in certain instances whether one of these com

bination-nouns should be written with a hyphen or as one word. In numerous examples above I have followed Webster in printing a hyphen when in current newspaper usage the hyphen is seldom used. Where a noun is unquestionably concrete the hyphen is quite generally omitted.

Because the use of a form as a noun is generally more recent than as a verb, as regards modern English, these combination-nouns are likely to be regarded as more surely colloquial or slangy than the corresponding verbs. It is slightly amusing to find that, as in the case of the verb, the editors of Webster's Dictionary occasionally refuse official recognition to a combination-noun but let it slip in as part of a definition. Which goes to show that the student of current tendencies is likely to be confronted not infrequently with the problem of classifying and defining a phrase which is rendering a definite service in language and yet has received no official recognition.


COMBINATIONS The frequent use of participial forms of these verb-adverb combinations with the adjectival side strongly emphasized is, of course, taken for granted. I have already called attention to the fact that when a past participial form of the verb is used with the perfective up the effect is essentially adjectival.14 It is to be noted further that this adjectival effect is increased by the addition very often of the adverb all. So a person may be described as all dressed up, all muddled up 'badly confused,' all spruced up 'very smartly dressed,' all withered up, etc. And if special stress is to be laid on the damage that has been done to some object, all is generally used as, for example, when something is said to be all battered up, all botched up, all shriveled up, etc.

While most verb-adverb combinations can be used in their participial forms predicatively and with their adjective values in evidence, some are frequently employed as attributive adjectives. It is common to speak of a broken-down old man, a clogged-up drain pipe, a faded-out dress, a grown-up son, a made-over hat, a worn-out garment. In H. Finn, for example, I find:

He had an old battered-up slouch hat on. 167.
poor friendless cast-out women. 202.
old curled-up boots and shoes. 192.
It was a dirty, littered-up place. 181.
pieces of bottles, and rags, and played-out tinware. 192.

Jim was most ruined for a servant, because he got stuck up on account of having seen the devil. 9.

Occasionally the phrase is increased by the use of a prefixed adverbial modifier as in 'a long-drawn-out story' or 'a long-spun-out yarn.'

When the present participle is used with the prepositional-adverb to form a combination adjective, the word that is modified is usually regarded not as the object of the action named by the participial phrase, as in the past participial phrases just discussed, but as the purpose or occasion of the implied action. So one finds such expressions as bearing-down pains, a coming-out party, a closing-out sale, getting-up time, setting-up exercises, a tuning-up process. Indeed, with the word process numerous participial phrases of this sort may be used as, for instance, a cleaning-out process, a breaking-down process, a tiring-out process, a wearing-down process, etc.

14 See page 25.


[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

Occasionally the simpler infinitive form of the verb is employed with the particle as a combination adjective. Webster's Dictionary defines bang-up as 'first-rate ; fine, it is not unusual in the world of advertising to send out follow-up letters, to the police may come a hurry-up call, a prize-fighter receives a knock-down blow, a housewife prepares a pick-up lunch, a put-up job defeats a man in politics, one wears a turn-down collar, etc.

And, finally, it is even possible to illustrate a slight tendency to add a derivative suffix in the phrase come-at-able or get-at-able, the very awkward makeshift of the man who cannot recall the less fami ar att able.

« PreviousContinue »