never get anywhere if you go about what-iffing like that. ...We want no what-iffers around, right, Charlie?"
(From Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by R. Dahl)
The first of the examples presents the nonce-word leg-pulling coined on the pattern of neutral derivational compounds. The what-iffing and what-iffers of the third extract seem to represent the same type, though there is something about the words clearly resembling syntactic compounds: their what-if-nucleus is one of frequent patterns of living speech. As to the up-to-no-gooders of the second example, it is certainly a combination of syntactic and derivational types, as it is made from a segment of speech which is held together by the -er suffix. A similar formation is represented by the nonce-word breakfast-in-the-bedder ("a person who prefers to have his breakfast in bed").
* * *
Another focus of interest is the semantic aspect of compound words, that is, the question of correlations of the separate meanings of the constituent parts and the actual meaning of the compound. Or, to put it in easier terms: can the meaning of a compound word be regarded as the sum of its constituent meanings?
To try and answer this question, let us consider the following groups of examples.
(1) Classroom, bedroom, working-man, evening-gown, dining-room, sleeping-car, reading-room, dancing-hall.
This group seems to represent compounds whose meanings can really be described as the sum of their constituent meanings. Yet, in the last four words we can distinctly detect a slight shift of meaning. The first component in these words, if taken as a free form, denotes an action or state of whatever or whoever is characterised by the word. Yet, a sleeping-car is not a car