Literal-Minded

Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

Verbing Mini-Breaks and Fast Breaks

Posted by Neal on November 21, 2004

Blar of Blargh Blog has noticed an interesting piece of past-tense morphology in tennis jargon. A mini-break is a kind of event than can happen in a tennis game. If someone performs a mini-break, do tennis fans say the person mini-breaked, putting a regular past-tense ending on break because it’s being converted from a noun to a verb? Or do they say mini-broke, with the irregular past-tense form that would be used with the verb break? The answer is surprising.

After reading his post, I did searches for fast-breaked and fast-broke in pages that also mentioned basketball. I got about 180 hits for fast-breaked, and about 59 for fast-broke. I also searched for home-runned and home-ran, to find out which word was more commonly used to indicate that a baseball player got a home run. Home-runned is out there, but I haven’t found any home-ran yet.

3 Responses to “Verbing Mini-Breaks and Fast Breaks”

  1. Anonymous said

    What are the differences in meaning here: being a broken person, a broken-down person, a fast-broken person, a mini-broken person or a broke broken person? Let’s take recent big time loser John Kerry to consider the possible nuanced meanings. He clearly cannot be a broke broken man because he has million of dollars in the bank. Additionally, his wife Teresa Heinz may properly be considered to have broken the bank with her vast millions. According to my dictionary, Kerry can’t be a full-blown broken person either because he hasn’t been brought low in either position or status; he’s still a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts (easy trivia quiz: who’s the other one? Hint, he likes to party & aint broke either.) . Since it quickly became apparent on election night that Kerry was not destined to be our next president and he just about broke down into tears during his concession speech, we can say he was a nearly fast-broken-down politician. As far as mini-broken goes, what would that mean in the Kerry defeat context? If he had broken his pinky on election night from pounding his fist through the wall, he might be called a mini-broken man. But, thats a physically painful interpretation. If he had spent almost all of his wifes money trying to become our next president, Teresa would justifiable have been mini-broke and probably a mini-broken lady in spirit. If all of his and her money had been spent, we then could rightly say they were a couple of flat-broke fools unless, of course, it worked to make him president and her first lady. But you know, hindsight is always 20-20 and it is about time my post-election commentary was broken off before Neal comes after me with Doug’s broken bat!

    –Trumpit demanding a recount in Ohio.

  2. Blar said

    I’ve thought about it some more and come up with a hypothesis for why mini-break is different from other sports verbs like fast-break, fly out, and home run. I think that the important thing about mini-break is that it’s a variation on another tennis term, break, that is used as both a noun and a verb. Since much of the tennis meaning of break is transferred over to mini-break, it feels appropriate for people to use the morphology of break as well. There is no analogous use of the verb break in basketball, or run or fly in baseball, so in those cases people start afresh with the complex nouns and backform them into regular verbs.

  3. Interesting point, I plan to ask that question in one of my trivia quizzes. i wonder how many contestants will know the answer.

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