November 4, 2012

English has a long and noble history of turning phrases into words. From ancient times (“every” <OE æfre ælc, ‘ever each’), to less ancient times (“nevertheless” <MidE neuer þe lesse), to very recently (“wannabe” from “want to be”). These words which are (were) concentated phrases, I call “phrasewords”.

There are many “plain” English equivalents of Greco-Latin or French words which are phrasal with no phraseword form. For example, “to imagine” or “mentally picture” can be rendered “to see in one’s mind’s eye”. I think we can phraseword this as “mind-see”. A phraseword I’ve been using for years now is “forelast”, meaning “penultimate”, derived from the phrase, “the one before the last one”.

It seems that when you start to look into it, there are many such plain English phrases with Greek-Latin-French one word counterparts which we could readily form phrasewords from. This is a kind of extended type of making noun forms of phrasal verbs: get away (verb) –> get-away (noun).

How many phrasewords can you think of?

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