Saturday, April 30, 2011
One of our clever young linguistics majors, Colin Williams, asked me about the word "ballsy" the other day. He wondered if it wasn't in violation of the "inflection outside of derivation" mantra. It sure looks like a plural "-s" inside a derivational (N -> A) "-y" (cf. "hand/handy"). My tired old brain has been working overtime thinking about this. Somehow I want to say, no, no, no, there's a derivational suffix "-sy". But is there? I've come up with a (short) list of others like it: folksy, artsy, bluesy, gutsy, newsy, outdoorsy, sudsy... (I decided that "footsy" doesn't count because it's a noun.) It sure looks like the plural "s" on all of those. Especially "blues," "news," and "suds" - which don't occur without their "s" (in the same meaning). "Folksy" is a little weird, because the people referred to would usually be the folk rather than the folks. But for the rest: the arts, the blues, guts, the news, the outdoors, and suds - well, they do usually have their plural "-s" on them. Whaddya think?