I am trying to write a review of a text.

I am trying to understand the context of two phrases: "spider-man" and "human spider".

Do they mean different things?

Although these two words were used interchangeably in the movie "Spiderman" (2002), I have a feeling that, grammatically, "spider-man" means "a human with spider properties". On the other hand, "human spider" means "a spider with human properties".

Am I right or wrong?

  • In both cases it is a human being with spider properties. Spider in spider-man is an attributive adjective. – user 66974 Nov 5 '19 at 21:05
  • Is a con man a con that's like a man? Is a salesman a sale that's like a man? – Juhasz Nov 5 '19 at 21:05
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    Spider-man could just be the guy who sells you your spiders .... Just like an oil-man sells oil ... – David M Nov 5 '19 at 22:48
  • I'm quite sure that Spider-Woman would think there was a difference … – Jason Bassford Nov 6 '19 at 1:31
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    Compare: ice cream man, human ice cream. – TaliesinMerlin Nov 22 '19 at 23:48

‘Human anything’ tends to be human first (eg human dynamo, human torch).

Other combinations often go the other way (eg motor vehicle is a vehicle, tree kangaroo is a kangaroo, beach house is a house).

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    Of course there's Human papillomavirus as a counter example. – Jim Nov 23 '19 at 0:19
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    @Jim Well, yes. :) – Lawrence Nov 23 '19 at 3:25

I suppose, although I understand this is going rather awry from your distinct question on grammatical-context, the kenning phrase of: "human-like spider", "an arachnidian human", a "spiderly man" or a "spider-like human" (humanoid), would befit a much more harmonious, poetically sounding rendition, if anyone ever wished to creatively write on such a basis, of a particular figure or man who seemed to possess uncanny qualities of a spider or visa-versa, and with a more easing certainty that the reader would not think of the Marvel superhero, but rather the distinct depiction of such a character.

P.S. once again, please pardon me for diverting away from your particular question but I thought I would write this down if anyone ever came on the sight, who desired to write a story and desired another opinion on the concept of wondering on the "spider-man" distinction of whether it connotates distinctly to a spider-like quality.

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