Linguistic Geekitude

Peter and I wound up talking for something like half an hour the other day about whether or not “Christmas tree light repairman” is a word in English. (It is one in German, which is how the matter came up.)
His blog entry explains things pretty thoroughly, I think. I do, however, still maintain that I’m right – “Christmas tree light repairman” is four words, not one.
Unnervingly enough, everything I look up to support my assertion is pretty inconclusive (see his dictionary samples) . For example: Quoth The Deluxe Transitive Vampire, “A noun is a word that names a person, place, thing, or abstraction. … Compound nouns are nouns made up of more than one word: razzle-dazzle, bedroom, cream puff, toothache, bubble bath, nuit blanche, she-wolf, shadowboxing, guardian angel, gun control, amour-propre, white-collar worker…” So, “Christmas tree light repairman” is a compound noun (it names a person or an abstraction, I think). But is it a word? Well, it’s made up of words, so it should be something else, right? But, a noun is a word and it’s a word, so…
This is why being a grammar/language geek is at once awesome and frustrating. Ultimately, this is all meaningless semantics, but I like closure. And since I have a strong appeal to authority, I like it when authorities (like dictionaries) are conclusive. But in this case, they’re not. Sigh.

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