groovy grammar

posted at 9:57 pm by brandon in riddle me this

My best friend on this planet, the wondrous Sherry Ann — every ounce of whose homework, it must be noted, she copied verbatim off of my paper, from the eighth grade forward — most randomly had me diagramming sentences via text message today (don’t ask), and she presented me with an interesting conundrum which continues to haunt me hours later.

Word for word, the question she posed:

“In the sentence ‘He had a paper clip,’ is ‘paper clip’ a noun? Or is ‘paper’ an adjective describing ‘clip’?”

I immediately answered back that ‘paper clip’ was a noun, but then I started thinking, is this a trick question? Half a day past, I’m still wondering.

Grammar freaks unite. And discuss.

7 responses to “groovy grammar”

  1. the buzz from Mike:

    Doesn’t seem like a trick question, but I have been known to be wrong, occasionally 🙂

    I think you would expect 99.9% of all people reading that sentence to read ‘paper clip’ as a compound noun, so it’s a noun. Now, if you really mean that he had a clip made of paper (if there is such a thing) then that *would* be confusing!

  2. the buzz from Jared B:

    IMO, “paper clip” is a noun. Specifically, it is a compound noun (i.e.: a noun comprised of two or more words).

  3. the buzz from A.:

    I am quite certain that paper clip is a noun. The more important question, however, is, why was Sherry Ann diagramming sentences in the first place?

  4. the buzz from Sherry Ann:

    I volunteer at an elementary school and we were reading poetry. The kids were asked to identify nouns and adjectives in the poem. The teacher said that paper modified clip and rubber modified band. It’s been giving me fits since it happened. So what is the answer? Diagram this: a greenish wad of bubble gum

  5. the buzz from brandon:

    Rubber modifying band, I might be able to accept. But, as Mike indicates above, since the clip isn’t actually made of paper, paper doesn’t modify clip. This teacher has no business forming young minds. She needs her license revoked immediately.

  6. the buzz from Mike:

    Webster’s definition of paper clip says it’s a noun. Get the teacher to look it up… end of discussion. 🙂

    The cause of confusion is the fact that it’s two words. If you Google “compound nouns” you’ll find that there some of them are spelled as one word, some are hyphenated, and some are two words.

    As usual, there’s no rhyme nor reason as to why that should be so.

  7. the buzz from brandon:

    Well, that settles that. This afternoon, get up to that schoolhouse and tell this moron, “Just for the record, the smartest folks I know find you to be a raging dumbass.” 🙂