Compound Nouns (6 of 10): A tale of two hairdressers.

By | October 12, 2020

Crazy Hair.jpg

One of the aspects of the Chinese language which I really like is the way it creates nouns by combining two simple nouns. These are called ‘compound nouns’. For example, look at the picture above. This crazy hairstyle was created by a ‘hairdresser’. In Chinese, a ‘hairdresser’ is called a ‘hair-shape-design-master’ (‘fa-shing-sherji-sher’). Wow, that’s four nouns in a row!

Well, in English ‘hair’ + ‘dresser’ is also a compound noun – but with just two nouns, it’s a bit simpler than the Chinese word, right? And ‘hairstyle’ is another compound noun. Yes, just join the nouns together, and you can often make more words, and English also has many of these. However, there is a little grammar involved with these compound nouns. At the end of the previous two posts, I asked you these questions.

1 Why do some words use hyphens, and others not?

2 Why is ‘rush hour’ written as two words, yet ‘raincoat’ written as one?

The answers are ….. there are no rules, and we just decide on the form of the compound noun over time. For example, when cars were invented, the word carpark became necessary, but it was probably originally written as car park, but over time, people became more familiar with the term, and in some countries, it grew to car-park and then just carpark. However, many dictionaries prefer the first.

Hyphens are sometimes necessary to make the word easier to understand. Brotherinlaw is not as clear as brother-in-law.

But what about ear-ring or earring? The dictionaries give the second, but I much prefer the first, because it’s clearer – it avoids that awkward-looking double ‘r’. I would say this is the same reason we write ‘rush hour’ as two words, to avoid the double ‘h’ of ‘rushhour’.

So, this is getting confusing, right? Let’s explore it further in the next post.

By the way, the answers to the previous post are hair drier, fire engine, sunset, screwdriver, word processor, arrival time, rubbish bin, and signpost.

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Author: Andrew

Andrew Guilfoyle Cambridge CELTA, Cambridge DELTA, Cambridge CELTA teacher-trainer, M.Ed