Practicing Parsing

a : to divide (a sentence) into grammatical parts and identify the parts and their relations to each other
b : to describe (a word) grammatically by stating the part of speech and explaining the inflection and syntactical relationships
Merriam Webster

What? There’s no third and fourth meanings, along these lines?

c: to get the meaning of words laid out in a nonstandard order

d: to get the meaning of a word constructed of two or more words by correctly breaking it into the component words

With respect to Mssrs. Merriam and Webster, I believe these activities, so much in demand in the modern world, ought to be called parsing.

For the former meaning I offer the quintessential example: the Automatic Caution Door.


For the latter, I offer a sign I saw recently on the back of a truck.


I admit I was intrigued by the concept of an idea lease.

Don’t rent ideas: Lease them, to save money!
Don’t buy ideas: Lease them, to save owning outmoded ones!

But as I overtook the truck, I saw another sign on the side: Truck Leasing.

Ah. Some graphics/logo/branding wonk had decided to trust to the public’s ability to correctly parse this construction into its component parts: IDEAL LEASE.

Sigh. Not, perhaps, the idealayout.



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8 Responses to Practicing Parsing

  1. John Whitman says:

    For years I wondered who Dunromin was who contributed his/her name to a camp ground near Annapolis Royal, NS. Finally one day the light dawned and it became Done Roaming.

    John W

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      John – Hahaha. That’s the flip side of the problem – hearing two words as one. Funny!

  2. Barry says:

    Perhaps the IDEAL is EASE of learning?

  3. Jim Taylor says:

    How about “Slow Seniors Crossing”? (Admittedly, I feel like a slow senior some days.) Nothing wrong with the word order there, just with the potential pairing of words.
    Jim T

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim – Yeah, I think people just don’t consider how their message could go wrong. After all, they know exactly what they mean. Maybe I could start a small business in retirement . . .

  4. barbara carlson says:

    Good one, Isabel.
    And along those lines of awkward English usage —
    as Yoda would say, “A cracker for a bookmark use not.”

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – I expect Yoda was translating from his first tongue, which excuses him. Not sure what excuse all these others have. 🙂

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