July 14, 2006

Ceiling tiles dropped, also morpheme

As a small linguistic footnote to the recent tragedy in Boston, I've learned that we can add drop(ped) ceiling to the list of words like ice(d) cream, skim(med) milk, ice(d) tea, wax(ed) paper, roast(ed) beef, shave(d) ice, cream(ed) corn, whip(ped) cream, where a phrase of the form [V+ed N] becomes lexicalized without the -ed. In yesterday's NYT, Pam Belluck wrote ("Wide Flaws Found in Boston Tunnel After Death", July 13, 2006):

Mr. Amorello said the concrete tiles formed a drop ceiling and were attached to the roof of the tunnel with metal tiebacks. The tiebacks were affixed to the roof with bolts and epoxy glue. One of the tiebacks detached, causing a section of five three-ton tiles to crash down on the Del Valles’s car. [emphasis added]

In fact, I'm way behind the curve on this one, since a quick web search shows that "drop ceiling" is already about four times commoner than "dropped ceiling":

  Google Yahoo MSN
"drop ceiling" 249,000 203,000 56,476
"dropped ceiling" 57,000 48,300 15,710
drop/dropped ratio
> Posted by Mark Liberman at July 14, 2006 06:16 AM