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One word or two? (206.6) - Mark's Journal
One word or two? (206.6)
It's obvious to me that "web site" is two words. Same with "back yard" and "back seat" when used as nouns (though not when used as adjectives, as in "backseat driver" or "backyard patio set"). It drives me nuts when people use the "wrong" form of "back yard" vs "backyard," and I will probably never stop thinking people are "wrong" when they use "website," no matter how many dictionaries it lands in.

But it's obvious to me that "sandbag" is one word. Last week, the City of Ithaca was offering sandbags to area residents in low-lying areas that might be flooded, and I winced every time I saw people talking about "sand bags" instead of "sandbags."

Maybe if I could figure out why it's obvious to me that "sandbag" is right and "website" is wrong, I could learn to get over the "wrong" spellings.

When I'm writing for certain publications, I learn their "wrong" spellings. TidBITS, for example, long-ago switched to "email" (which makes me see "Emil") and still sticks with "Web site" (as opposed to "web site") on the grounds that it's the "World Wide Web," a proper noun. For the same reason, I believe in "the Internet," not "internet," but don't buy "Web."

I admit it, I'm weird. But then, I'm a linguist.
9 comments or Leave a comment
helianthas From: helianthas Date: January 15th, 2014 05:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
I feel like "sandbag" is a verb or maybe a way to describe a person (like a "windbag") but a bag full of sand is actually a sand bag. Like a gift bag or a party bag or a shopping bag. We just say it really quickly so it sounds like sandbag, and ok-- now that I think about it maybe it can be one word since it's commonly used that way ("how many sandbags did you need for the garden wall?" Vs "How many sand bags did you need for the garden?" Implies for the former, the type of sandbag that doesn't get open and is used for walls, and the second the type that opens up and we actually use the sand), but I don't think either way is "wrong" (the way that shoppingbag would be "wrong"). </p>

So maybe they are saying "sand bags" because they are using the sand to spread on the streets and not "sandbags" because they're not building retaining walls for a dam or some-such.


helianthas From: helianthas Date: January 15th, 2014 05:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Didn't remember the reason why they're using the sandbags (and LJ app doesn't let us read the post while commenting), and looking back I see it's for a flood. </p>

So I would wince along with you, for the reasons states above.

I stand by my rational for the use of sandbag vs sand bag!! :-)

michelliebel From: michelliebel Date: January 15th, 2014 06:04 pm (UTC) (Link)

It's the German

It's our German linguistical heritage to make all concepts one long word.
mhaithaca From: mhaithaca Date: January 15th, 2014 11:22 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: It's the German

That's an interesting thought, and could explain why some people mess up "workout" or the like, too.
sskipstress From: sskipstress Date: January 15th, 2014 07:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
It seems like it's common for noun noun combos to become compound words while adjective noun combos stay separated. I don't have the technical background to know if this is a rule, though.
lizliz From: lizliz Date: January 18th, 2014 05:14 am (UTC) (Link)
There are days I feel I spend my life trying to explain the difference between "onboard" the adjective and "on board" the location.

It's the "onboard boutique," but "We look forward to welcoming you on board!"

This comes up rather a lot, as I spend my days WRITING FOR A CRUISE SHIP COMPANY.

So, basically, I feel your pain.
polypolyglot From: polypolyglot Date: May 2nd, 2014 04:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
You and I part company on many things, but I suspect that you get a lot of unnecessary, whiny shit about CQ (I had noticed some from Siran, but then -- to borrow a phrase from Jeff Anbinder -- all of that crew are a few planets shy of a Federation).

You should probably remind any naysayers or critics that you're volunteering for what is (at minimum) a $39/hour job at certain media organizations.

Edited at 2014-05-02 04:33 pm (UTC)
polypolyglot From: polypolyglot Date: May 2nd, 2014 04:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
During my brief stint copyediting for Communiqué, I changed everything to NYT style, e.g., instead of "former Avenger commanding officer Alex Rosenzweig", it should be "Alex Rosenzweig, a former commanding officer of the Avenger" or "a former commanding officer of the Avenger, Alex Rosenzweig" -- i.e., not giving people false titles.

That's a particular bugaboo of mine. Also, there are some instances where adjectival phrases should be hyphenated, but aren't. Also, I believe I've seen some words where the hyphenation was forced incorrectly by an editor or layout person, such as when one has three consonants together. They are supposed to be broken between the second and third consonants.

Edited at 2014-05-02 04:22 pm (UTC)
polypolyglot From: polypolyglot Date: May 2nd, 2014 04:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
The examples you gave weren't obvious to me. On the other hand, not using proprietary terms such as Listserv when "e-mail list" is meant was fully ingrained in me by you back in the 90's.

I often ellide "e-mail address" to "edress," but people get confused when I use the latter. I've also stopped using "snailmail" (as in snailmail address) and prefer to use, e.g., "postal address."
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