This question comes to us via Godsweigh. She wrote me this email the other day:
Mrs. Chili, I have a question. I live in the south, Houston to be specific, and often see on menus that a restaurant serves “ice tea”. Shouldn’t it be “iced tea”? In the same line of thought, since I drive in relatively industrial areas of the city, I am often on the road with tractor-trailers. Many times those trailers have a sign across the back that says, “oversize load”. Shouldn’t it be “oversized load”? Since these signs are usually official placards (official because the state prints them and requires their display), I keep thinking I’m the one that’s wrong, but something about the lack of an ending “d” on the verb feels wrong.
Please set me straight!
You know what? This is something that bugs me, too. I was certain that I’ve addressed this question before, but even after some extensive digging, I can’t seem to find it in my archives, so here I go;
The words iced and oversized in these applications are adjectives that describe the nouns they precede; the load on the truck is bigger than average and the cold tea is differentiated from the hot. My contention is that the “d” is necessary; if we were to rearrange these structures to put the nouns first, we would say “tea that is iced” or “a load that is oversized.;” to leave the “d” off would not make sense in these cases.
I think – and please remember that this is just my conjecture – that the “d” on the end of iced and oversized has been dropped as a consequence of the way the words sound when they’re pronounced in speech.
Though *I* say “iced tea” and “oversized load,” let’s keep in mind that I’m a self-confessed stickler for such things. I have found evidence that both ice and oversize are used as adjectives; though the definition for “ice” as an adjective would indicate that the noun in question is “of or made of ice; ice shavings, ice sculpture,” the definition for “oversize” as an adjective is “of excessive size; unusually large.” (All my definitions for this post come from dictionary.com – I’m writing this from L.U. and don’t have access to my OED.)
I think what we have here is a case of prescription vs. description; the words in question are used – and perfectly understood – in the language in a way that seems inconsistent with the grammatical rules which would seem to govern them. Keep checking the comments for this post; I’ve got a couple of really articulate (and wicked smaht) linguists who hang out here, and I’m sure they can be far more enlightening about this than I’ve been.
Keep those Grammar Wednesday questions coming! You can leave suggestions in a comment or you may email me at mrschili at comcast dot net.