Despite the plangent clamour that passes as Brexit debate, I am slightly surprised to find myself a little in love with one of the terms widely circulated in these past few weeks. I think the term “Team UK” is a very interesting construct.
I hasten to add that my admiration is nothing to do with a political ideal, it’s the surprising use of a noun followed by another noun I like. The grammatical term is a noun adjunct. Most often one of the nouns functions as an adjective, as in “chicken soup”. This could also be termed an apposition, a relationship between two or more words in which the units are grammatically parallel.
But the terminology isn’t important. I like it because it’s a good example of the fact that there is always more than one way to say something in the English language. Team UK should really be “the UK team” or “the UK’s team”. But there isn’t anything intrinsically wrong in “Team UK”. It doesn’t break any rules.
I enjoy having a language so flexible that you can say things in so many ways.
And that a noun adjunct only works in certain instances makes it all the more interesting. But mainly, I like it because this form of sentence construction can be beautiful.
There are, of course, much more elegant examples of noun-noun appositions than “Team UK”. It could be argued that neither of the examples I am about to give is grammatically correct, but don’t you think there are poetic nuances to “beneath a fire sky” that make a great way to describe a sunset? Or “an awed battleship sea” would be an interesting way to term the arrival of warships?
A noun-noun sequence is an uncommon method of expression and can be difficult to pull off. It isn’t a natural way of using the language. Test yourself. Think of a phrase which uses noun-noun, that also makes sense. It’s not easy, is it? We tend to, quite rightly in most cases, use adjectives.
It wouldn’t be used often in a newspaper. We don’t like too many adjectives in the first place, so experimental sentence-building won’t often be seen on these pages. But anyone who claims to be a writer shouldn’t restrict themselves to one form of writing. If you are a news reporter, penning a short story from time to time can be useful to remind yourself that a newspaper article can have the same format as fiction. It can have a scene-setting introduction, a narrative and a conclusion. Or a twist in the tail. Or an intriguing descriptive passage. You might try a noun-noun experiment in that.
But whether or not they use this admittedly whimsical method of expression a politician, or anyone who writes or expresses themselves in public, should remember there may be a better, more elegant, way to get their point across. Surely the use of creative English to prove a point is better than vying to shout loudest.
Word of the week
Glowing with a soft radiance. EG: “My love for the term ‘Team UK’ is of a lambent nature.”
Read the latest Oh my word! every Saturday in The Courier. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org