Literal-Minded

Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

Watch my Backformation

Posted by Neal on June 25, 2004

Someone I know once told me,

I like to peoplewatch.

In May 2003, a gossip column had a quotation from Ashton Kutcher, concerning a party that George W. Bush’s daughters had attended at his place in 2001. Kutcher said,

The Bushes were underage drinking at my house.

These two sentences caught my ear because of the verbs in them: peoplewatch and underage drink.
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3 Responses to “Watch my Backformation”

  1. […] morphological process, backformation. This one followed the same three-step pattern evident in people-watch and underage-drink, price-match and fence-sit, and (courtesy of CGEL, pp. 1637-38), babysit, headhunt, lipread, […]

  2. […] discussion reminded me of a post I wrote in 2004 about the verb underage drink, backformed from underage drinking/drinker. At the time, when […]

  3. […] a verb, I realized I was stumbling over the same kind of reanalysis-plus-backformation I’ve written about before. Specifically, I was starting out with the compound noun serial killer (or gerund […]

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