My student has asked whether the splitting of the compound word keyhole into key hole is a particular literary technique. I didn't know! It's relevant to the text, as it is about disconnection and distance in relationships.

  • Check this answer. – Ubi hatt Apr 5 '19 at 3:44
  • But "keyhole" is a single word (a compound noun) with the meaning a hole for a key. It's not a syntactic construction with "hole" as head and "key" as modifier, which could be construed to have a different meaning, i.e. a strategically important hole. – BillJ Apr 5 '19 at 8:35
  • I would not have any problem with the split. Despite BillJ's objection, no one would think that "asshole" and "ass hole" were different things. – Hot Licks Apr 5 '19 at 12:28
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    Most compound words originated as two separate words placed beside each other, and they still have meaning if treated separately. Instead of saying a keyhole, you can say a hole for a key and it will be perfectly understandable. Or you could just put the space back in, also without a problem. Doing so might appear a little strange, but if it's in the right context, it might emphasize something you're trying to say. And, again, there's nothing wrong with splitting the words back into two again—especially if each word, on its own, is a valid word. – Jason Bassford Apr 5 '19 at 13:35
  • @JasonBassford - And it should be noted that, in quoted speech, adding or removing the space implies a difference in how the words are spoken. With "key hole" more emphasis would be placed on "key", and the words would be more distinctly separated. – Hot Licks Apr 5 '19 at 22:33

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