Compounding Joyce

LOW on demand! This afternoon the Twitter threw up this query, following on from my last post on cutthroat compounds [Catchall for Cutthroats]:


Well, here at The Life of Words, we aim to please. Since I’ve been mucking around with Python scripts to get at OED’s combinational formations (those bits typically at the end of entries that list affixal and attributive combinations), it was relatively easy to get together a list of instances where Joyce is listed as the first to have combined words in these particular ways, so far as OED2 (1989) was able to tell.

Caveat: the list doesn’t include any terms that are headwords in OED (such as riverrun – I think suggested to Burchfield along with others by Richard Ellmann in a letter). Just combos. Which of these are cutthroats would take a little longer than I have this afternoon (not a lot at first glance, if any), but I was able to get lists for Eliot and Pound, too, for comparison:

T. S. Eliot (54):

batflight, blue-nailed, bride-sheets, dreamcrossed, dream-imagery, dream kingdom, earth-colour, extra-academic, fever chart, leopard spots, life-forcers, loam feet, mass-made, mass-society, moment-to, non-christian, non-theatrical, nursery bedroom, ocean liners, oceanless, overinterpret, poker game, pre-philosophical, pre-renaissance, proudnecked, pullaways, puss-purr, race reports, railway cat, rain land, recognition scene, salmon paste, sandsmokes, sandwich papers, sea-girls, self-demolition, self-immolating, semi-ethical, six-seaters, smokefall, sound-value, spear-tips, stable-theatre, sword-rusting, timekept, time-ridden, ultra-intellectual, unaffrayed, unflowering, unenlightenment, vision-literature, water fruits, wood-retreat.

Ezra Pound (62):

double zero, firm-faced, ice-flakes, knife-sharp, legend-lust, lion-coloured, man-filled, many-fingered, many-twined, mass graves, mist-wrought, mud-slings, neo-nietzschean, nerve-wracked, night-wonder, over-inflated, over-oiled, premalthusian, press-bosses, pug-bitch, rag ends, rain-blur, rainditch, rain-tears, rain-cold, re-beams, red-gilded, rhyme scheme, ribbon-clerk, ring-having, river-bridge, river-marsh, rowing sticks, salt-bright, salt-wavy, sand-stretch, sea-surge, sea-fellow, seven-towered, six-holed, smooth-oiled, spear-print, spirit tower, spur-clinks, squirrel-headedness, stone-cliffs, stone-bright, suet-headed, sun-film, sun-driven, sun-fed, sun-gold, swan-flight, swollen-eyed, sword-hate, tree-shadowing, uncounterfeitable, under-emphasis, wheat-wine, white-stockinged, wind-streak, wing-flapping.

James Joyce (249):

antimilitarism, central eclipse, cork-lino, flat hunting, hypereducated, magneto-electro, nose-dropping, self-explaining, servant-wife, sous-prefecture, suitlength, trainfare,  arch tempter, basketcar, bedpal, bedthanes, bedlock, bellstrap, bellows pockets, bluntfeatured, bookpocket, claw legs, cocklepickers, counterflap, cycleshop, cycletrack, eyeslits, fineboned, firm featured, flap ears, flatcut, fleshcase, fleshhotpots, freefly, gatelodge, greatgranduncle, greencapped, gumchewed, heartbalm, heelclacking, holyeyed, horny browed, housejacket, inkshining, kitefaced, lampglow, leatherjacketed, lemon platt, letterwords, man smell, mantamer, mantailored, market net, meatfaced, medical hall, middle leg, moondew, multigeminal, multisecular, muskperfumed, navelcords, newsboards, niggerlips, nigger mouth, nighttown, nonperishable, noonreek, nosejam, nutquesting, oakpale, oceangreen, oceansong, oceanflowing, omnipollent, onehandled, orangekeyed, organtoned, paint-speckled, physioscope, pierstakes, pigsticky, pillow talk, pipespills, playfight, plum-stained, police chargesheets, popcorked, porterbottle, posticipated, postconditional, postcreation, poxfiend, pox-fouled, presaw, precombustible, presstable, primrosevested, psychophysicotherapeutics, pursepocket, pussy fourcorners, raindew, rainspouts, rainvapour, rainfragrant, rainladen, raincaped, rawskinned, refeatures, reremembered, reriddled, redbordered holland, red-flowered, redlabelled, redrimmed, redpanting, resintipped, rib-steak, riceslop, ricepowdered, rockvine, roguewords, roofpanes, rubbishtip, ryebloom, ryehigh, sabletrimmed, sack-shouldered, salad leaves, salmongaffs, salteaten, sandknolls, sandstrewer, sans blague, saucestained, sausagepink, scarftie, schoolpoem, schoolurchin, schoolyears, scumspittle, seadeath, seadusk, seasmiling, seafed, self-submersive, selfabbreviating, selfcompelled, self-tinted, self-nodding, semi-solidified, semistatic, sexsmelling, shameclosing, shamewounded, shiftstraps, shybrightly, sicksweet, side-eye, singlepane, skirt duty, slipperslappers, smokepalled, snuff-stains, sodachapped, sourfavoured, sowcunt, speechstuff, spiderveil, spoonseat, staffholsters, stewgravy, stonebearded, strainveined, stubblecovered, stubblegrown, studfee, studenting, subsubstantiality, subsolid, suetfaced, sugar-bin, sullen-faced, sun-compelled, superquality, supersumptuous, supraracial, supra-burgher, swanmeat, swatheturner, swinefat, taildangler, tape measurements, tea-bathed, tea-brown, tea-slop, teartap, terrorcausing, themebooks, thermo-pairs, thicklugged, thickplotting, timedulled, tiptouch, townhithe, tramtrack, treeforks, trembling eel, trickleaps, trundle wheel, truthcompelling, tuckstitched, turf-barge, turf-coloured, two-columned, unconsortable, unoccupyable, uncobbled, undeathliness, unbloused, underslip, upstiffed, upwardcurving, warmgloved, warmseated, wave gestures, wavenoise, wavewhite, websoft, wheatbellied, wheyhued, wheypale, wheysour, whiteyellow, whiteflattened, whiteheaped, whitearsed, whitegaitered, whitepolled, whitesmocked, whoremistress, windraw, wishcard, witchroasting, wolfeyes, wonderwide, wormfingers, wristbangles, yellowslobbered, yewfronds.

Note: there’s a small possiblity that one or two of these may be from the small number of other Joyces and J. Joyces quoted in OED – these would take too long to filter out for today.

 [UPDATE: I’ve now uploaded a tab-delimited spreadsheet of the Joyce combinations, with full bibliographic details, which you may download here.]


  • A comment stream from Twitter:

  • Got to add these to the list:

    alphabet books, bar-stool, cuffedge, laneway, lankylooking, motor run, myriadislanded, orangefiery, pannier pockets, perfumesprayed, pubhunting, quasisimultaneous, ringweight, roomkeepers, rosefrail, rustblack, sandwichbell, shaggychested,shitbreeches,sports programme, stem-glass, tidysized, triangle-player.

    They don’t follow the normal OED convention and so got missed. A couple are questionable – bar-stool, e.g.

  • kts wrote:

    I hope you’re following John Simpson’s retirement project, the James Joyce Online Notes, where he regularly updates Joyce’s words in the Oxford English Dictionary. It quickly becomes clear that exactly what counts as a lemma is arbitrary and fluctuating. In the First and Second Editions, most compounds were sorted into general categories run together in gigantic paragraphs, where they didn’t generally try for more than one quotation each, and as you said at Language Hat: “evidence for compound, affixative, and attributive forms in OED was never as rigorous in terms of earliest dating (nor was intended to be) as it was for lemmas.”

    Nevertheless, every compound in those lists was tagged as a lexeme, artificially inflating the first-use statistics — especially for Joyce. Now, when the Third Edition revises the entries, more significant compounds are promoted to sub-entries and searched more thoroughly for antedatings; less significant compounds are lumped together as examples of a category rather than lexemes in themselves.

    For example: of the first dozen entries in your Joyce list, five have been revised: nose-dropping, suitlength, and trainfare have been promoted to sub-entries, and antedated; self-explaining has been promoted to headword, and antedated; and servant-wife has been bundled into “C2. With other nouns, in the sense ‘that is a servant’”. So none of them would be first-uses if you searched the OED3 today.

    Simpson’s comments on each case are well worth reading. Basically, there are tons of colloquialisms, slang, taboo words, and just plain ordinary compounds like “trainfare” that Joyce was the first to use in great literature; but the everyday world where he got them is more and more accessible to lexicographers.

  • Great point. One can see how, in the case of JJ, a general position regarding his strandentwining compounds might have been arrived at, with the result that a large number of commonish collocations got caught up in the net (I mean, flat hunting? man smell??). It all has a very Burchfieldian vibe to it (not that I mind…).

    I wrote a little bit about this phenomenon in the context of TS Eliot’s compounds in Notes and Queries some time back. Here’s an excerpt:

  • kts wrote:

    Haha, strandentwining *is* in the OED — not for itself, but in a quote from a critic quoting Ulysses, in the entry for omphalic!

    The inflated first-use counts for compounds are melting away very quickly as they are revised, with the majority being antedated. For some they still have no citations besides Joyce (e.g. ryehigh, oakpale, redpanting), and those tend to be marked “rare”, “isolated use”, or “obsolete” — perplexingly, these notations are not consistent. They’re all from Ulysses, why aren’t they all equally obsolete?

    And I don’t understand why some Joyce-compounds are subentries while others (servant-wife, witchroasting, yewfronds) are only examples of a compound class. It would make more sense to me to put all his original compounds as examples of a class: they did not enter common use, but they illustrate the resources of English for forming compounds on the fly.

    In Simpson’s “New Quotatoes” article, he acknowledges: “Under the dictionary’s current inclusion policy (by which occasional literary uses are not included without evidence that they have been used by others, or have attracted significant comment by critics etc.) many of these ‘Sirenisms’, which entered the dictionary in its supplement of 1972-86, would not have been included.”

    Finally: I don’t see *any* cutthroats in your lists here, except shitbreeches — which was actually misplaced in OED2: they put the Joyce citation under shit (n.), but it should have been under shit (v.), where there are other, earlier citations.

  • kts wrote:

    I’ve been looking through the OED’s Ulysses quotations and found some more compounds that your script missed that had earliest quotations from Joyce in OED2: confession box; figroll (was s.v. roll, since moved to fig); leadpapered; mass-product; moon-grey; motor jerkin; motor trip; peanutbrained.

    Of course, most if not all of these can now be antedated. Peanutbrained has a great story: during the revision of peanut for the Third Edition, the OED’s Peter Gilliver checked for antedatings, and found that not just peanutbrained, but the entire sequence “bullnecked, beetlebrowed, hogjowled, peanutbrained, weaseleyed fourflushers, false alarms and excess baggage” was snarfed by Joyce from a 1915 sermon by Billy Sunday — a source that Joyce scholars had completely missed until 2005! Gilliver’s report is in the James Joyce Quarterly, Fall 2006. (As Joyce said: “I am quite content to go down to posterity as a scissors and paste man.”)

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