1. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    Finger paint as an adjective

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by lostinwebspace, Sep 16, 2011.

    Does "finger paint" get a hyphen in its adjectival form? I checked Merriam-Webster, which says that "finger paint" is a noun and "finger-paint" is a verb, but how about an adjective? My phrase is "finger paint-splotched hands" in case it matters.
     
  2. Omega14
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    Omega14 Member

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    Is it crucial that that it's finger paint, rather than just paint-splotched hands? Or even hands splotched with finger paint? :)

    Rephrasing it might just be the simplest solution as it gets around the hyphenation issue and, to me, sounds better.

    Rachel
     
  3. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    I guess I could rephrase it, but I also want to learn this. It's conceivable I might want to use finger paint as an adjective in another work or to learn the mechanics of this type of construction.
     
  4. MarmaladeQueen
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    MarmaladeQueen Senior Member

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    Finger paint isn't normally an adjective, and "splotched" is using the verb "to splotch" as an adjective.. You're using them together as a modifier - I'm sure that someone like Mammamaia will know the correct grammatical term - and your dilemma is whether you're using the verb finger-paint as the modifier, or the noun finger paint.

    I'm trying to think of some other examples. A smoke-filled room uses both a noun (smoke) and a verb (to fill). A white-painted picket fence. I think you're using finger paint in its noun sense. So you end up with finger paint-splotched hands. But it doesn't read well. That sort of structure can be misleading or ambiguous. Acid rain-soaked ground. Is is ground soaked with rain that happens also to be acidic? Or is it ground soaked with acid rain?

    The bottom line is that finger paint-splotched hands is not good English. Good English should be clear, unambiguous and easy to read.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    that's the correct way to do it... and it is 'good english'...

    it doesn't matter what you call it... readers aren't going to be assigning grammar labels to all the words they're reading, are they?...

    however, knowing all too well what finger paints do [i'm a mom of 7, grandma of 19!], i'd suggest changing 'splotched' to 'smeared' since a 'splotch' doesn't seem to fit well with what's left on one's hands after using finger paints...
     
  6. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have to say I'm surprised at that, and if it is correct I would certainly go out of my way to avoid it. It looks as if "finger" is qualifying the whole phrase "paint-splotched hands", which it isn't. My strong instinct would be for "finger-paint-splotched hands", but I don't have a reference to back that up.
     
  7. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I have to disagree here. I think it's fingerpaint-smeared hands. :)
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i agree that the blended noun reads better... good catch, mallory!
     
  9. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree that "finger paint" is a noun in this case, and "finger paint-splotched hands" looks right with my limited knowledge of grammar. The problem is it's ambiguous - "finger paint-splotched hands" can also be read as someone fingering someone's paint-splotched hands - and it's quite a mouthful, which both make it harder to read.

    So, in short, rephrasing might be best.
     
  10. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    I'm allowed to combine finger paint like that? Is that what a blended noun is?

    Under what conditions am I allowed to do this (in the U.S.)?
     

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