Tuesday, February 21, 2006

'Down,' Boy!

Knockdown is one word. Rundown is one word. But you might have a knock-down, drag-out fight in a run-down neighborhood.

See what's happening here? The space-hyphen-solid decision is complicated by a coincidental word, and the difference is a lot more subtle, and likely to fool even experienced word people, than, say, bare foot (n.) vs. barefoot (adj., adv.).

A rundown, obviously, is a summary -- nothing to do with decrepitude. But a knock-down fight involves knockdowns. You might even dispute my contention that the solid form does not apply, but I think the juxtaposition with drag-out makes the truth clear.

Do any other examples come to mind? Heck the linguists probably even have a cute term for the phenomenon. If not, let's make one up.


MuPu said...

How about "siminyms" or "iminyms"? (They're kind of like each other, only different.)

I did a quick Internet search to see if these terms already exist; they don't. I'll sell 'em to you for fifty cents apiece -- if you promise to give me credit for them in your next book.

Incidentally (and somewhat "atopically," to coin a phrase), I've always heard and used the term "knockdown" with the meaning of the noun "insult." I can't find it defined this way in any dictionary, though. Anyone know if this is a regional thing? If memory serves, I've heard it used in British Columbia, Washington, California and Wyoming.

DV said...

Is it possible those westerners are using "knockdown" to mean "insult" when they could be using "putdown" instead?

MuPu said...

As you suggest, Dennis, it's probably a regional variation of "putdown." Wyoming is still the Wild West. An insult in Laramie usually ends with a charge of assault and battery. You don't get "put" in your place; you get "knocked" on your ass.

Any thoughts on the variation "knocked-down, dragged-out fight"?

Also, does the "drag-out" or "dragged-out" part refer to the duration of the fight, or to something that happens to one or more of the combatants (in addition to being knocked down)?

Sorry to drift off on a tangent, Bill. I'm still trying to think of some siminyms© (or iminyms©) for you. It's a very fine detail you're getting at. Have you thought of any other examples that might jump-start our brains?

Bill said...

I'm afraid I've been preoccupied with the ACES board's civil war.

MuPu said...

"Civil war"? ["Jumbo shrimp," blah, blah, etcetera.] Actually, it looks more like a three-ring, knock-down, drag-out fight.

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