The structural type of compound words and the word-building type of composition have certain advantages for communication purposes.
Composition is not quite so flexible a way of coining new words as conversion but flexible enough as is convincingly shown by the examples of nonce-words given above. Among compounds are found numerous expressive and colourful words. They are also comparatively laconic, absorbing into one word an idea that otherwise would have required a whole phrase (cf. The hotel was full of week-enders and The hotel was full of people spending the week-end there).
Both the laconic and the expressive value of compounds can be well illustrated by English compound adjectives denoting colours (cf. snow-white — as white as snow).
In the following extract a family are discussing which colour to paint their new car.
"Hey," Sally yelled, "could you paint it canary yellow, Fred?"
"Turtle green," shouted my mother, quickly getting into the spirit of the thing.
"Mouse grey," Randy suggested.
"Dove white, maybe?" my mother asked.
"Rattlesnake brown," my father said with a deadpan look...
"Forget it, all of you," I announced. "My Buick is going to be peacock blue."
(From A Five-Colour Buick by P. Anderson Wood)
It is obvious that the meaning of all these "multi-coloured" adjectives is based on comparison: the second constituent of the adjective is the name of a colour used in its actual sense and the first is the name of an object (animal, flower, etc.) with which the comparison is drawn. The pattern immensely extends the possibilities of denoting all imaginable shades of each co-