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Favorite crossword author, Merl Reagle

  1. Mar 21, 2006 #1

    Math Is Hard

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    My favorite crossword author, Merl Reagle, did a theme last Sunday on "trinonyms". I thought it was pretty clever.

    He explains them like this:
    http://media.lawrence.com/img/deadwood/crosswords/2006/03/puzzle060307.pdf

    Just thought the linguistics folk and the crossword fans here might enjoy this puzzle.
     
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  3. Mar 21, 2006 #2

    Danger

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    Thanks, MIH. I love puzzles. No time to read it right now, but I'll print it out when I get a chance and take a shot at it.
     
  4. Mar 21, 2006 #3

    FredGarvin

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    Cool. Thanks. I do crosswords, but never bothered to look at the author's names. I wonder if I have a favorite author???
     
  5. Mar 21, 2006 #4

    -Job-

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    I wouldn't call Bath, Tub and Bathtub synonyms to be honest. Not all tubs are bathtubs, so are tub and bathtub really synonyms? Bathtub is an element of the set "tubs", so they are related, but not equivalent.
    I understand that the definition of synonym, from the dictionary is:
    "A word having the same or nearly the same meaning as another word or other words in a language. "
    I disagree with that nearly, because by that approach then "primate" and "human" would be synonym, and that doesn't sound right. Anyone agree or is my thinking wrong on this matter?
     
  6. Mar 21, 2006 #5
    Back when a friend and I used to do the Sunday paper cryptograms together we were quite aware of the authors names. K.C. Doyle of Deland Florida was our archnemesis!:devil: :biggrin:
     
  7. Mar 21, 2006 #6

    Math Is Hard

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    :approve: We like to grade the crossword puzzles after finishing them, jot down the time to completion, and then add constructive comments for the author (usually Merl). I keep threatening to mail these to him. :devil: Our little pretend game is that we are Merl's raison d'etre, and that he dreams of the day that he will write the crossword that we cannot crack. Every Sunday, we dash his hopes, and he skulks away back to his dark library, infuriated, but more determined than ever.
     
  8. Mar 21, 2006 #7

    Moonbear

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    Wow, I've never even paid attention to the author of crossword puzzles.
     
  9. Mar 21, 2006 #8
    We were always talking about sending fan mail and maybe paying some people to follow him/her around like groupies.
     
  10. Mar 21, 2006 #9

    AKG

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    Took me an hour, though there were a few letters I couldn't get. The first letter of 73 across, the second and fourth letters of 92 across, and the second, third, and fourth letters of 115 across are what I would have guessed, but I wasn't sure so technically I didn't get them. I also didn't get the first and third letters of 129 across, but I had no clue when it came to these two.

    Definitely a fun puzzle. Not too hard, not too easy, with good clues. Plus, the theme was good.
     
  11. Mar 22, 2006 #10

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  12. Mar 22, 2006 #11

    honestrosewater

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    Sweet! I'm gonna try to find more. :biggrin:

    I bet there are more too. Words are always being compounded and shortened. Meanings shift. The words that get joined together are usually already related to each other in some way (that's why they get put together). Imagine this scenario (which I am completely making up): some flubs are gub, so gub flub becomes a unit that means something different than what the words mean separately, as blackbird or black bear. People shorten gub flub to just gub. Flub already referred to flubs, and now gub flub and gub do so too. This seems common enough to me, especially if gub was added as an adjective or verb and isn't already being used as a noun (its only meaning as a noun would be to refer to a gub flub -- it wouldn't have to 'compete' with any other nouns gub. This might be what happened in English with, for example, black or blacks, as used as a noun to refer to people with a certain range of skin colors, national origin, or whatever the classification was based on. I'm not sure if it was clipped from black people or not though. I'm almost certain this is what happened with my example below, sabretoothed tiger (actually, (ack! it keeps getting more complex!) see, sabretoothed is an adjective that could have been formed in different ways, some of which don't include a step with the noun sabretooth, which might not have been a word until AFTER sabretoothed tiger was clipped to sabretooth. THEN sabretooth was compounded (or compounded again, in a way) with tiger to form sabretooth tiger. Or people could have dropped the -ed for other reasons. Bah, I will have to look into this one -- the history of the word is probably attested, so it's a good chance to test predictions. Sweetness). You just need to get flub to take on the more specific meaning, gub flub, without adding any morphemes (words or parts of words) to it; this can be accomplished by flub being used in a narrower context or by its other meanings dying or becoming less common.

    It could happen in other ways, of course. That's just one option. Bathtub, for example, was probably bathing tub (bathing being formed from the verb bathe). So it's not necessarily so straightforward either. And they don't have to be compounds either. Telephone, from below, isn't a compound. They don't even need to be [word]-noun compounds, though that type is, AFAIK, the most common. Taperecord was meant as a verb, yes? (I've never head taperecord used as a noun.)

    Ack, don't post interesting stuff! I'm supposed to be doing homework! :grumpy: :tongue2:

    Oh, saber is more common than sabre, it seems (if anyone else is looking (yeah, right)).
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2006
  13. Mar 22, 2006 #12

    honestrosewater

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    Okay, here's a kinda cheating one, but it's just an example: Sabretooth tiger. I don't know how common sabretooth tiger is; sabretoothed tiger might be more common (the spelling isn't important -- there is no word boundary where the empty space or hyphen would go). But as a separate word, I've seen sabretooth (meaning that kind of tiger).

    I don't know what this one is, but I think it's cute. Some people pronounce the first part of telephone as I have heard British English speakers pronounce telly. I know telephone has been clipped (the process of dropping part of a word to get a new word is called clipping) to phone. Telly usually refers to a television, but I will try to find out if some speakers use it to refer to telephones. Television has given us tv, tv set, and set (in some contexts).

    Someone might have already studied this kind of process and have a big list. In English compounds (words formed by concatenating two or more other words), the last word is (usually) the head, or they are head-final. (This is a scientific observation, by the way, not a prescribed rule.) So a fairytale is a type of tale, a birdhouse is a type of house, a blackbird is a type of bird, and so on. The comound's complement(s) (the word(s) other than the head) are already legal words in the language, so if their meaning changes after the compound is formed, the complements are ripe for clipping. :smile:
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2006
  14. Mar 22, 2006 #13

    honestrosewater

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    I see what you're saying, but words, or rather word forms, can have more than one meaning. Tub can mean any kind of tub or specifically a bathtub. One meaning of tub is equivalent to one meaning of bath is equivalent to one meaning of bathtub. This is why my sabretooth tiger one isn't a real one; people don't use tiger to mean specifically a sabretooth tiger.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2006
  15. Mar 22, 2006 #14

    AKG

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    There are definitely more, since I thought of one last night, but now I've forgotten it. Here's one, although I don't think it's the one I thought of last night: "billy goat". I don't know if this one is so good, since 'goat' itself doesn't really specify that it's male. I'll see if I can remember the one I thought of.
     
  16. Mar 22, 2006 #15

    honestrosewater

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    I think relatively modern inventions/discoveries or specialized concepts that became common would be a good place to look. Compounds are an obvious choice when coming up with names for those things, and I imagine the words used would tend to be specialized in the first place, so there isn't that 'competition' thing to stop people from clipping the word. For example, most people don't use vacuum as it is used in physics, so vacuum cleaner can be clipped to just vacuum.

    Of course, it also works the other way: since the context is narrower, the extra words aren't necessary. For example, astronomers at work can just say scope to refer to a telescope.

    It can also happen that most people just don't know the difference between the more specilaized words, so people use them synonymously. For example, jet, plane, and jet plane might be used this way. I don't even know if they have a more specialized meaning. I think I associate jet with a special 'look' and speed (fast). I don't really use jet plane (don't need it) -- except when singing Leaving On A Jet Plane. :smile:

    I think the main thing to realize is that the usual reason that speakers form a new word is that they think their old words can't do the job in the given context. In the case of compounds, the complement usually narrows the head's meaning or referents, i.e., as when you say first base to refer to only one of the three bases in baseball. The category of the compound will be the same as the category of the head, but can differ from the complement's category. In that case, you can make a new word that has the meaning and category of the compound but the word form of the compound's complement. For example, in baseball, you can use first as a noun to refer to first base.

    Now, English doesn't use inflection much, so switching categories without changing the word form might usually be possible. However, I don't know how well this would work in languages that are highly-inflected. It might happen that you can't usually change the category without having to change the word form as well.

    Anywho, if you want the word form of the head to take on the meaning of the compound, since the head was not specific enough in the original context to do the job of the compound, either the context needs to be changed enough to narrow, in the right way, the meaning of the head or the head's meaning in the original context needs to be narrowed enough in some way that doesn't change the head's word form. The only way that I know to do that is for its other meanings to die off and not be replaced, which I don't think is very quick or easy. I think this is going to be the rarer thing, the head and compound having the same meaning.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2006
  17. Mar 22, 2006 #16

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    I got excited for a moment about zigzag -- close but no cigar. :frown:
     
  18. Mar 22, 2006 #17

    AKG

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    I don't think vacuum cleaner works, since people don't normally use "cleaner" to refer to "vacuum cleaner." How about "back end"?
     
  19. Mar 22, 2006 #18

    honestrosewater

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    Right, I was just giving it as an example of the process I was talking about.


    Feel free to let me know how often the head (the last word in the compound) being too general ends up being a deal breaker. :smile:
     
  20. Mar 22, 2006 #19

    honestrosewater

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    There might be a few with radio. I think radio receiver is one in wide use. Radio transmitter or radio transceiver might also be in narrower (but not too narrow) contexts.
     
  21. Mar 22, 2006 #20

    Math Is Hard

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    trolleycar?
     
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