Closely related to my other question, I am searching for an open/spaced compound noun for which the following properties hold:

  • Its constituents have a well-known association. Such as "honey" and this picture
  • The meaning (and association) of the compound is unrelated to the associations (and meanings) of its constituents. Or in other words: the open compound noun is not obvious given the two individual words (seems considerably harder than finding closed compound nouns).
  • The actual origin of the compound noun is irrelevant: it's about the general association that we have when looking at the words individually. Looking at "honey" individually, we think of honey. Looking at "moon" individually, we think of the moon. So "honeymoon" is the sort of compound noun of which the meaning is different from its constituents (too bad its not open).
  • The compound is open/spaced, such as tennis shoe

Note that "tennis shoe" is an example of exactly the opposite of what I'm looking for. Tennis has a certain association. Shoe has a certain association. So the meaning of "tennis shoe" is obvious.

Nota bene: even though my question is closely related to my other question, the answers to my other question were mostly closed compound nouns. This question specifically targets open compound nouns, so it is different both from my previous questions and it needs (satisfactory) answers that were not given in the other question.

  • 1
    There's bound to be some association, even if only historical. Is Denver boot an example of what you want? Nov 19, 2015 at 21:29
  • @EdwinAshworth It's about the immediate and individual association, not about the origin of the compound noun. Denver boot is a perfect candidate indeed!
    – Jean-Paul
    Nov 19, 2015 at 21:30
  • 2
    Red herring is another, then. I've seen hot dog classified as an NCC, though I'm not sure I agree. It could be a PCC (partially compositional compound). Look up "non-compositional" + compounds Nov 19, 2015 at 21:39
  • @EdwinAshworth Finally someone knows the actual name for it! I will edit my question. Why don't you post your suggestions as an answer below?
    – Jean-Paul
    Nov 19, 2015 at 21:44
  • 2
    We have Voltaire's testimony that "Holy Roman Empire" is an example.
    – deadrat
    Nov 19, 2015 at 22:04

3 Answers 3


How about:


One of the most famous of misnomers is the English horn / cor anglais.

English horns are not English; they come from what is now largely Poland. 'The instrument originated in Silesia about 1720' {Wikipedia}.

And they aren’t horns, but woodwind instruments related to the oboe.

Red herring and Denver boot are other examples. I've seen hot dog classified as an NCC (a non-compositional compound), though I'm not sure I agree. It could be a PCC (partially compositional compound).


po boy is neither poor nor a boy, it is a sandwich

Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Po%27_boy) : "A po' boy (also po-boy, po boy, or poor boy) is a traditional submarine sandwich from Louisiana" (Emphasis added)

po is dialect for poor.

Also, bush baby is neither a bush nor a baby -- It is a small primate, related to the lemur. (Note that there are baby bush babies, juvenile bush babies, adult bush babies, and, if kept as pets, even old bush babies.)

From Duke Lemur Center, Thick Tailed Bush Baby: "...Bush babies, or galagos, are small, nocturnal primates which range in size from cat-sized to mouse-sized. They are found in the forests and woodlands of Africa south of the Sahara." http://lemur.duke.edu/discover/meet-the-lemurs/thick-tailed-bush-baby/#sthash.E8d2KNwS.dpuf

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