December 23, 2004

Blending in

The briefest of footnotes to Mark Liberman's observation that Geoff Nunberg's example "page-burner" is not just a common, or garden, malaprop, but an idiom blend:

Surely the current hot number in the world of blends involving noun-noun compounds is "X BE NOT rocket surgery", as in "Look, sentence diagramming isn't rocket surgery". A few thousand Google web hits. It's a bit more complicated than "page-burner", since the contributing compounds, "rocket science" and "brain surgery", are not themselves idioms (while "page-turner" and "barn-burner" are). Nevertheless, formulaic expressions figure in "rocket surgery" examples, since what's blended are the clichés "X BE NOT rocket science" and "X BE NOT brain surgery", both conveying 'X really isn't difficult'.

zwicky at-sign csli period stanford period edu

Posted by Arnold Zwicky at December 23, 2004 12:40 PM