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I am using the suffix -hood as both base and suffix to derive poetical meaning in an interplay of the words "...child and adult hood." Though this may offend the ear of the modern day reader, I believe its earlier usage was separate from its base, and I'm not so sure it would, on the surface, be much of a technical blunder anyway. What do you think?

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    Poetry is poetry. Grammatical and linguistic accuracy have never been insisted upon. That said, I'd write "child- and adulthood." – David M Mar 23 '14 at 14:06
  • OED's earliest citation for childhood is 914 - written as cildhade, so I don't think there's any support for the idea that the suffix -hood was ever "separate from its base". – FumbleFingers Mar 23 '14 at 14:50
  • @FumbleFingers Check OED under '-hood'; it was a separate word which was later restricted to affixal use. The same thing happened to the German cognate -heit. – StoneyB on hiatus Mar 23 '14 at 17:40
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    There's no problem as long as your poetic license has the Derivational Morphology endorsement. – John Lawler Mar 23 '14 at 19:31
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Timmy had a miserable child and adult hood.

This sentence doesn't parse well because there the reader is unlikely to notice that "hood" is intended to change "child" and "adult" into "childhood" and "adulthood". At the very least, I would recommend using a hyphen:

Timmy had a miserable child- and adulthood.

(?) Timmy had a miserable child- and adult-hood.

(Whether you use a hyphen in "adulthood" is debatable. Adulthood is nearly always written without one but the meaning would be clear if you included it for poetic or stylistic reasons.)

This usage is uncommon but is considered correct depending on the words involved. You can read more about it at Can a hyphen be used without anything on the right side? That question's example:

[...] in early parts of this century when it was the most user- and hardware-friendly Linux operating system available [...]

Whether "-hood" could be used in this manner is less clear but, for the sake of poetry, I would call it good enough.

  • I'd differ on your use of hyphens. "Timmy had a miserable child- and adulthood." This serves to indicate that "child" deserves a "hood", while nowhere is it written "adult-hood" (or "neighbor-hood" or "woman-hood"). – Cyberherbalist Apr 3 '14 at 16:03
  • @Cyberherbalist: I think that is a valid argument. I left the extra hyphen in purely for the sake of symmetry. I've added a note calling out the difference. – MrHen Apr 3 '14 at 16:05
  • "Timmy had a miserable child- and adulthood"...that hyphen could pass for a dash, which makes the sentence read that Timmy, upon achieving adulthood, had a miserable child in tow. – JeffSahol Apr 3 '14 at 17:48
  • @JeffSahol: Yes. But at this point, we are wading between stylistic opinions. The OP is explicitly trying to do something abnormal, here. My goal was to get them on the right path and then let them work out the details. – MrHen Apr 3 '14 at 18:07
  • @MrHen sorry, that was not meant as a critique, but as a joke and to more or less underscore that abnormality. – JeffSahol Apr 3 '14 at 18:26
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You might be right that the element of wordformation -hood as in childhood was in earliest time a word of its own as suffixes don't fall from the sky. But no one can tell for sure was that word was. Etymonline presents a theory of a word meaning "shining". Not very convincing and the semantic connection is not plausible. I would guess -hood is connected with Latin aetas/aetatis - the stem aet- might give the German suffix -heit ( h + eit) as in German Kindheit (childhood) and the logic of this formation would be clear. Aetas can mean age of a person and "Kind + age" would mean "the time when one is a child". And I think it is not difficult to see that the German suffix -heit and the English suffix -hood are related.

  • The origin of -hood/-heid/-heit is Proto-Indo-European *keh2it-, "clarity". This later developed into "abstract notion related to x". The Latin/Greek root ae- in aetas, which rather meant something like "age, eternity", is from Proto-Indo-European *h2ei-uo- "time" and unrelated. – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Mar 23 '14 at 15:24
  • With PIE *kehh2it you have a mechanical consonant group of a lot of languages that is a hypothetical formation and the meaning of which is dubious. I don't work with IE roots, I prefer nearer sources such as Latin or Greek. And, as I said in the beginning, we can only guess. – rogermue Mar 23 '14 at 15:29
  • There is more or less scientific consensus about this as being the most convincing hypothesis at present. And Latin or Greek is not a source of -hood. The etymology of -hood I took from Philippa (2003-2009), of aevus from De Vaan (2008), each among the best of their kind. – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Mar 23 '14 at 15:36
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    The normally accepted etymology (as given here by Cerberus) has the advantage of having semantic parallels in the same languages (such as Eng -ly / Ger -lich, originally meaning ‘shape’ or ‘body’, then ‘having the shape/body of X’, then just abstracting adjectives/adverbs), and also fitting phonologically. Your proposed etymology from a Latin word is both typologically unlikely (common Germanic did not really borrow suffixes from Latin, only lexemes), semantically less plausible (‘childhood’ the base of a whole group of nouns), and phonetically anachronistic. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 23 '14 at 17:02
  • You need not go back to PIE; English -hood derives from OE hád, meaning 'person, sex, degree, state, condition'. See Bosworth-Toller: the supplement is here and the original is accessible by links at the bottom of that page. The word was eventually restricted to affixal use--see OED; the same thing happened to the German cognate heit--see this, p.142 – StoneyB on hiatus Mar 23 '14 at 17:58

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