October 31, 2005

Brigham and Women's: it could have been worse

Bill Poser stopped to chat at the water cooler in 1 Language Log Plaza the other day, and remarked that the ugly coordinative name "Brigham & Women's Hospital", which appears to coordinate items in different grammatical functions (attributive modifier and determiner, respectively), could have been worse, much worse. What is now the Brigham and Women's Hospital results from a series of three separate binary mergers of what were originally four hospitals:

— the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital
— the Robert Breck Brigham Hospital
— the Boston Lying In Hospital
— the Free Hospital for Women

If you merged those last two you have had "the Free and Boston Lying In Hospital for Women", or "the Boston Lying In and Free Hospital for Women", or any of a number of other awkward names. A merger of the first and third might have produced "the Peter Bent and Boston Lying In Hospital" or "the Boston Lying In and Peter Bent Hospital"... So perhaps we were lucky.

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum at October 31, 2005 07:55 AM