Grammar Wednesday

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!

Thanks,

Godsweigh

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.

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5 Comments

Filed under Grammar

5 responses to “Grammar Wednesday

  1. There seems to be a trend of dropping the adjectival ending in compounds like these. “Ice cream” used to be “iced cream”.

  2. Laurie B

    I’m sure glad that you all are keeping track of this stuff. I’ve long since forgotten what I use to know.

  3. Interesting question! It occurs to me that ice tea that was prepared as real tea and then cooled is often called ‘iced tea’ while the factory made soda is called ‘ice tea’. Don’t know if that’s true, but this could mean that tea which was really iced is called iced tea while the artificial stuff is called ice tea.

  4. I’d never considered the correspondence to ice cream, John. That’s a good point. But now I’m going to question myself every time I say it. :)

  5. Sandra

    Another great resource for turning nouns and verbs into adjectives.

    http://jefflaferney.blogspot.com/2012/09/oversize-load.html

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