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There are multiple ways a noun can be described by an adjective

  • by a word that is already an adjective (e.g., big, dark, high, low)
  • by a noun (mushroom house)
  • by a participle (running dogs, painted house)

However, I am often confused. Actually not confused, because I believe I see the picture clearer than the normal usage. Anyway, confused over the deployment of a past participle when the noun form is sufficient as the adjective:

  • white-tail deer vs white-tailed deer.
  • red-hair girl vs red-haired girl.
  • bottle-nose dolphin vs bottle-nosed dolphin.

Because, then, why wouldn't we say

  • chickened rice but chicken rice
  • pepper jacked cheese but pepper jack cheese
  • pepperonied pizza but pepperoni pizza
  • yellow-doored house but yellow-door house
  • Intel-Pentiumed PC but Intel-Pentium PC

??

The more acceptable form is bottle-nose dolphin, not bottle-nosed dolphin. Yet the more acceptable form is white-tailed deer, not white-tail deer.

How unacceptable is it to say

  • red-hair girl
  • white-tail deer
  • bottle-nosed dolphin
  • wet-backed migrant

??

Why or why not? Do provide examples of other noun vs past participle adjectives.

  • I think you need to check the truth of your assertions. I've just checked one that jarred with me, and I think this Ngram for bottle-nosed dolphin v bottle-nose dolphin strongly suggests that the former is more commonly used. Look up articles on participial/participle (!) adjectives, and attributive nouns, to see where they tend to be used. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 16 '14 at 9:42
  • This is partly covered in this thread (When can a noun be used attributively?). – Edwin Ashworth Jul 16 '14 at 9:56
  • Edwin, should I prefer to quibble over if my examples were accurate to the bone, or should I prefer to quibble over participle vs non-participle adjectives. So please tell me why it is less desirable for me to say yellow-doored house? Why wouldn't more native speakers say red-hair girl, white-tail deer? Is it acceptable to say it contrary to popular practice? – Blessed Geek Jul 16 '14 at 10:22
  • It's senseless to try to start discussing why a certain usage is incorrect or less idiomatic if that's actually a false premise. // The topic is very broad, and thus probably off-topic; I'd just suggest one theory: with N M or V'd M (meals; eg chicken soup, plum pie, prawn curry ... // peppered steak, battered fish, curried prawn ...) [1] the -ed form may be unavailable (plummed?) or pretty silly-sounding (chickened?); [2] the -ed version tends to mark the noun modified as the major element of the phrase (thus steak that is battered, but not soup that is chickened). – Edwin Ashworth Jul 16 '14 at 11:12
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The examples you give have the answer. Where it is a matter of a name (e.g. of a species or product) use the noun construction: bottle-nose dolphin. When it is not, use the verb construction: red-haired girl.

  • 1
    What about white-tailed deer? If you don't give me a reasoned answer for white-tailed deer, I will have to vote you down. Because I feel you have but simply concocted a willy-nilly rule. – Blessed Geek Jul 16 '14 at 8:29

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