Compound interest

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If you were lured here by the title of this post, expecting some insight into money, please understand that I do what have to do to get readers. Like most people, I have an interest in money, but I have more outsight than insight; that is, as soon as it is in sight, it usually wings its way out of sight before a lured person can say compound interest.

 

Courtesy National Archives

Courtesy National Archives

However, I am flush with words, have books full of them, store them on my computer, and spend hours everyday stuffing them into other people’s ears – for free. I’m nothing if not generous with them.

 

 

I’m interested in words and find  compound words especially interesting. Hence, I have a lot of compound interest.

 

 

In the intimate life of words, compounding is how words meet and mate.

 

 

Nouns, the parts of speech that never forget a name, live to meet other words and partner up. One day a hand reaches out for a bag, slaps a logo on, and voila, the $10,000 handbag is born. Later in a city, a building rises up to scrape the sky and calls itself a skyscraper. During a show, a magician saws his sister in half and ends up with a half-sister. Back at the farm, Old MacDonald takes a hog, washes it up, expecting it to keep it clean, and finds that his idea is pure hogwash. Then he splits a horse four ways and ends up with a quarter horse. Fun, isn’t it?

 

 

Compounding is not just for nouns. Verbs like to get into the action, as do adverbs, a kind of word that can’t be in a relationship without trying to modify its partner. Prepositions, the words that let you know what’s up and what’s going down participate, as do adjectives, those opinionated words that always have something to say about every noun they meet.

Courtesy of Library of Congress: DN-0068144, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum

 

Some compounds, like bridegroom, are monogamous – two nouns become one and everything they own is joint property. They take seriously the ancient truth: what the dictionary hath joined together, let no auto-correct put asunder. Others are more like the bride-to-be; they flash their hyphen to show they’re engaged. Open compounds go on dates, visit the amusement park, ride the roller coaster, and eat ice cream together, but maintain their distance and avoid PDAs (public displays of affection). Many compounds start out in an open relationship, get engaged, and end up in a closed relationship.

 

 

 

Much of my compound interest comes from rhyming compounds. I like their razzle-dazzle sound. Many of them disparage others, looking down their noses at the jibber-jabber of the snake oil salesman; others have a keen eye for disorder and will call you out if you shilly-shally or dilly-dally. *

 

 

I’ve shared all this to tell you about a car, but as you can see, my thoughts are all higgledy-piggledy, and I’ve used up my cyberspace allotment. So now I’ll have to backtrack and write about the car next time, unless I miss the off ramp again.

 

 

 

*I sort rhyming compounds like I sort my buttons: all in one big pile. There are dozens of ways to categorize them, but since this is a family friendly blog, I would like to afford linguists some dignity and not talk about their piles. If you find yourself disturbed by this and would like to make a case out of it, I’ll see you in court. Tennis or basketball – it’s your choice.

 

 

 

24 thoughts on “Compound interest

  1. You invariably take us where we didn’t think we were headed, and after we’ve helplessly succumbed to your charms, you sneak in a bit of edumication to keep us on our toes. Personally, I’ve always been a bit confounded by the compounds, never quite sure if they are married or in need of a dash. Perhaps not surprisingly, in my confusion, it seems I tend to end up writing them differently every time I stumble across them in my wordy meanderings. One day they are close as peas in a pod, and the next, they are glaring at one another across the wide expanse of a dash. Either way, they are interesting. As was this post.

    You make me smile. My face doesn’t usually move in that direction as a matter of course, so thanks for the opportunity to exercise those under-used muscles. It was quite the workout. My cheeks feel better already. 🙂

    • I’m so happy it made you smile. I think all of us are confounded by the compounded. Many words that used to be hyphenated are now closed, so I usually have to check a dictionary to make sure.

  2. I’m looking at your conversation with our friend 99, and am reminded of how often I find myself scratching my head over what various autocorrect programs think should or should not have hyphenated, conjoined, or otherwise in a relationship. It’s like I imagine I’d feel sitting in marriage counselors’ waiting rooms and overhearing all of the whimsically and weirdly contorted reasoning behind everyone’s point of view. Great read as always, YS!
    😀
    K

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