Can you categorise terms that use two related but possibly contrasting words together, to describe something like a totality?

Two examples I can think of:

"I searched far and wide" - meaning, you searched everywhere.

"I looked high and low" - meaning, again, you looked everywhere.

In both cases, the independent terms don't literally contribute to the final meaning, but you're putting these two terms together to make them more than the sum of their parts.

  • 1
    They are both compound adverbs. Just like hot dog is a compound noun. Aug 13 '20 at 1:54
  • I'm not sure that's right. Saying "It's hot and dog" doesn't mean the same as "hot dog". The inclusion of "and" changes it to something other than a set of compound adverbs, no?
    – HelloThere
    Aug 13 '20 at 2:25
  • That's because hot and dog isn't a compound noun. It's simply 3 words put together. Compound words can have meanings that are independent of the words that form them. If they didn't, hot dog (a warm mammal?) would make little sense. Aug 13 '20 at 2:51
  • To be clear about my previous comment, both far and wide and high and low have discrete and separate entries in dictionaries as actual compound words (entities) in their own right. They have been used so often that they are no longer just 3 words strung together, but now exist independently of their parts. Aug 13 '20 at 4:42
  • The general term for phrases that mean something different from the literal meaning is "idiom". There are many "X and Y" idioms, often used to emphasize extremeness as in your examples.
    – Barmar
    Aug 16 '20 at 6:48

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