Two words that MUST be used together

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Hadromax
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Two words that MUST be used together

Postby Hadromax » Fri Dec 04, 2009 10:20 pm UTC

What are two (or more) words that MUST always be used together in order to make sense? Each word, used on its own, would not make sense at all.

I've been scanning the internet and books for weeks now, but I can't seem to think of anything that fits into this category of phrases.The best example of this I can think of is "bona fide" where the words, used together, present a concept, but used apart they make less sense. However, I don't think that would qualify because all though it fits the guidelines in English, it does not in Latin.

A way I thought of to check if any such phrase exists is by comparing the search volume of each individual word in the phrase against each other in Google Trends, and if they were always used together, the search volume would be exactly or nearly the same.

Note that compound words do not count (backpack, bookkeeper, toothbrush, etc.) as, by definition, they are two words combined into one.

If there are no such instances of this sort of phrase in English, I am wondering if there are instances of it in other languages. I am only monolingual in English, and I know there are multilingual people on the fora that may have some idea of such as phrase in the languages they speak.

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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby Dingbats » Fri Dec 04, 2009 10:53 pm UTC

In the case you mention, "bona fide", it doesn't make much sense to analyse it as two words. Just because there's a written space doesn't mean it's more than one word. It still behaves exactly like any other single word.
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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby norsk_heks » Sat Dec 05, 2009 12:34 am UTC

To expand on Dingbats' point, I'm not sure there would be any motivation for what you're describing to ever happen. If there are two separate words that need one another, that means they can't be separated, right? What you're describing is different from, say, "run amok", where we can use "run" in a multitude of contexts but only use "amok" with "run". If you could only use "run" with "amok", then they would never be separated, and the only motivation I can think of to call them two separate words would be if they have different morphology, i.e. you could say "ran amok", "runs amok", "running amok", where "run" changes but "amok" doesn't. I don't think we have any words like that in English, and I don't have any evidence of this, but my guess is that if something like that were to happen, where "run" only can occur in the presence of "amok" and vice versa, pretty soon it'd turn into a compound word, or just a regular multi-morphemic word, and we'd be saying "runamoked", "runamoks", and "runamoking". It doesn't seem like there would be any good motivation for two separate words that are ONLY used with each other to remain separate words in a language.
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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby Hadromax » Mon Dec 07, 2009 3:56 am UTC

I understand that such phrases can and sometimes are written as one word. I also understand that in many cases, such phrases are pointlessly written as separate words. My question is how many such phrases can you find that exist?

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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby Bobber » Mon Dec 07, 2009 11:23 am UTC

Your example with "runamoking", "ranamok" etc. made me think of a similar issue.
There has been discussion in the stoner community lately on how to conjugate "wake'n'bake". Some choose to view it as a compound verb (i.e. they view to "wake'n'bake" as a kind of lexeme?), and they conjugate it "woke'n'boke" in the past tense, instead of the correct "woke'n'baked" which would conjugate both "to wake" and "to bake". The actual word used, however, when speaking (or writing) in the past tense, is often "wake'n'baked".
We are either going to see the different forms bounce around for a while until people decide on one, or we'll see geographical splits in the preferred words, just like with regular dialects.
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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby Velifer » Mon Dec 07, 2009 8:21 pm UTC

Compound words can have spaces. You'd be looking for a compound where the word is extant, but where both the morphemes are archaic. That's a tough one. The biggest problem is that words like that won't look like compounds anymore, just like... words.

The best I can come up with is "scuttlebutt," although scuttle retains the same meaning it once did--even if it's uncommon, I don't think it quite makes it to archaic. Also, "amok" has meaning on its own without being part of the "run amok" idiom.

We can start to play with... Fuddy-duddy? Hocus Pocus?
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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby Hadromax » Tue Dec 08, 2009 2:35 am UTC

YES! YES! :D

HOCUS POCUS.

Sir, you have no clue how grateful I am to you for informing me of this phrase. When you compare hocus versus pocus (and versus "hocus pocus") the Google Trends search volume for the words are almost the EXACT SAME.

It's unbelievably satisfying to finally see the conditions of such a phrase met. I knew it was out there, but you, sir, with your holy-ultimate intellect, brought this to apparency.

Dang, we need to celebrate.

Thankyou!

Let's see how many more we can all discover.

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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Dec 08, 2009 4:17 am UTC

Well if that counts, then what about flimflam or helter skelter? Riffraff? Does it matter significantly if they're written together or separately?
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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby The EGE » Tue Dec 08, 2009 4:21 am UTC

extenuating circumstances
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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby Hadromax » Tue Dec 08, 2009 5:03 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Well if that counts, then what about flimflam or helter skelter? Riffraff? Does it matter significantly if they're written together or separately?


Yes! :D Helter Skelter also appears to be a phrase where the words depend on each other. Riif and raff, however, do not, as riff can be used on its own to mean something like a guitar riff or a piano riff.

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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby poxic » Tue Dec 08, 2009 5:15 am UTC

Higgledy piggledy? Topsy turvy? Linsey-woolsey?
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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby PM 2Ring » Tue Dec 08, 2009 5:27 am UTC

Poxic just reminded me of Hurdy Gurdy.
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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Dec 08, 2009 4:17 pm UTC

The EGE wrote:extenuating circumstances

No, that's just an adjective along with the common word "circumstances", which can definitely be used in other... circumstances than when it follows "extenuating".

Hadromax wrote:Riif and raff, however, do not, as riff can be used on its own to mean something like a guitar riff or a piano riff.

That's a different word entirely that happens to look the same, though. When you use "riff" on its own, it means something completely unrelated to its meaning as part of the word riffraff.
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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby Lounge » Wed Dec 09, 2009 6:53 pm UTC

Itty bitty is pretty close. Both words can be used on their own but since their meanings are so similar I think they are often used together.
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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Thu Dec 10, 2009 1:54 pm UTC

To go with something that isn't just sproingy slang like all of the above, is hoi polloi too much of a stretch?
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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby Bobber » Thu Dec 10, 2009 2:35 pm UTC

Wouldn't mumbo jumbo work?
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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby jaap » Thu Dec 10, 2009 2:42 pm UTC

Bobber wrote:Wouldn't mumbo jumbo work?

Jumbo is used in other contexts, e.g. Jumbo Jet.

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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Dec 10, 2009 3:09 pm UTC

jaap wrote:
Bobber wrote:Wouldn't mumbo jumbo work?

Jumbo is used in other contexts, e.g. Jumbo Jet.

Sure, to mean something completely different...
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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby PM 2Ring » Thu Dec 10, 2009 3:16 pm UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:To go with something that isn't just sproingy slang like all of the above, is hoi polloi too much of a stretch?
I get the impression that we are trying to avoid ones that result from phrases imported from other languages. But you do deserve points for suggesting a Greek phrase rather than a Latin one. :)

Are coupling words allowed? Like "and" in "flotsam and jetsam", or "mortar and pestle", neither of which qualify, as the individual words do get used separately, especially "mortar".

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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby graatz » Thu Dec 10, 2009 5:18 pm UTC

"Hocus Pocus" isn't a win. It's a single compound word and spelled hocus-pocus. Merriam-Webster lists the etymology as fake Latin invented by jugglers. Additionally, although not standard usage, hocus is valid English as a shortened form of hocus-pocus and can be used independently of "pocus," which is in no ways a valid word on its own.

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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby Velifer » Thu Dec 10, 2009 6:00 pm UTC

graatz wrote:"Hocus Pocus" isn't a win. It's a single compound word and spelled hocus-pocus.

Anything that fits in this category is going to be a compound word, really. If you're quibbling about spaces I can see your point, but that's debatable as it's in common usage as an open compound. The whole notion of two words that have to be used together isn't tenable, once they lose meaning separately (if they ever had it) they become one word, sometimes with hyphens or spaces.

And so, as a bit of a game, I don't think it hurts to follow the rules he set out, even the one where a "word" is defined to include all homonyms. Especially since he said I have a "holy-ultimate intellect!" :shock:
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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby graatz » Thu Dec 10, 2009 10:20 pm UTC

Velifer wrote:And so, as a bit of a game, I don't think it hurts to follow the rules he set out, even the one where a "word" is defined to include all homonyms.


Hadromax wrote:What are two (or more) words that MUST always be used together in order to make sense? Each word, used on its own, would not make sense at all.


"Hocus" can be understood independently. "Pocus" isn't a word.

Hadromax wrote:Note that compound words do not count


"Hocus-pocus" is a single compound word.

Sorry to destroy your ego, but it's not a win.

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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby graatz » Thu Dec 10, 2009 10:25 pm UTC

to be

It meets most of your criteria.

We know what it means "to be." "Be to" makes no sense. "To" has no independent meaning. "Be" has no independent meaning. They must be used at the same time in a specific order for them to make any kind of sense.

Of course, that's not to say that using one of those words requires the use of the other. But honestly, you'll only find that with compound words...

EDIT: Actually, as an imperative, I suppose the sentence: "Be." could be construed to be a valid command, as in, "You over there, be." Reply: "I don't really have a choice, but okay."

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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby jaap » Thu Dec 10, 2009 11:02 pm UTC

graatz wrote:to be

It meets most of your criteria.

We know what it means "to be." "Be to" makes no sense. "To" has no independent meaning. "Be" has no independent meaning. They must be used at the same time in a specific order for them to make any kind of sense.


O RLY?
Can you be a bit more careful?
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'Be' can easily be used without 'to', and it certainly does have meaning.

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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Thu Dec 10, 2009 11:07 pm UTC

And "to" can be used with just about any other infinitive. Where "just about" means "always."
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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Dec 10, 2009 11:46 pm UTC

graatz wrote:Sorry to destroy your ego, but it's not a win.

Yeah, you already said that. Five hours earlier. Did you forget that quickly?

graatz wrote:to be

It meets most of your criteria.

Haha, no it definitely doesn't. "To" can be used with any verb for the infinitive, and pretty much any noun or noun phrase as a preposition. "Be" can be used without "to" as a command, or with any modal verb.

So if anyone has failed *completely* in this thread so far, it's you.
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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby graatz » Fri Dec 11, 2009 9:35 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:"To" can be used with any verb for the infinitive, and pretty much any noun or noun phrase as a preposition. "Be" can be used without "to" as a command, or with any modal verb.


In my edit, I do mention that "be" could plausibly be a one-word command, although it's also patently absurd to command something to be. As I think others have pointed out, there won't be a real answer to this question. "Two words" implies that they are each valid English words. And "must be used together" implies that both don't have validity on their own, contradicting the first stipulation. What I'm saying is that there are words that don't exactly gain meaning until coupled with at least one other word, which is the closest you'll get to "answering" this riddle. And in any case, separately those words could be used together with different words.

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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby gmalivuk » Sat Dec 12, 2009 12:15 am UTC

graatz wrote:And in any case, separately those words could be used together with different words.

Yes, which is why they don't work in the original spirit of this thread.

Sure, you can't make a sentence that consists only of the word "to". But that doesn't mean it's part of a pair of words that *must* be used together. And same with "be" (which additionally could be used to make a meaningful grammatical sentence, however rarely you'd actually say that).
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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby PM 2Ring » Sat Dec 12, 2009 4:00 am UTC

graatz wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:"To" can be used with any verb for the infinitive, and pretty much any noun or noun phrase as a preposition. "Be" can be used without "to" as a command, or with any modal verb.


In my edit, I do mention that "be" could plausibly be a one-word command, although it's also patently absurd to command something to be.

Will you be upset if I disagree? :)

And let's not forget the old Hippy catch-phrase "Be here now!".

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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby mastered » Fri Dec 18, 2009 2:35 am UTC

Initially I dismissed this thinking all words have independent meanings, and I still think so - otherwise what would be their function? Their function is their meaning - but what about "going to"? They both have meanings, and "to" is used in other places all the time, so maybe it doesn't qualify, but you rarely (I won't say never, although I can't think of any exceptions at the moment) see the word "going" without "to" after it.
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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Dec 18, 2009 4:56 am UTC

I'm going swimming, and then I'm going fishing. I will continue going shopping every day until my money runs out.

There are a couple dozen activities that are typically used with 'go'. Any one of them in the present continuous has "going" without "to" after it.

Not to mention any 'literal' use of the word with something other than the destination after it. Going up/down the stairs, going around the corner, going about your business, going through tough times, going away for awhile, going home, going downtown, going on vacation, etc.
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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby mastered » Fri Dec 18, 2009 5:46 pm UTC

Oh. You're right, of course. Brain didn't make the connection ... it seemed like a good idea at the time.
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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby DrSir » Sat Dec 19, 2009 5:02 am UTC

Pretty much any phrase that works with this will also have the 2 words rhyme.

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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby olubunmi » Sat Dec 19, 2009 10:19 am UTC

The best I could come up with was 'cum laude' , but I guess that goes into the same category as bone fide.

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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby sje46 » Sat Dec 19, 2009 10:28 am UTC

Tyrannosaurus Rex. Of course, that's not exactly what you're looking for, so I'll just say "abra kadabra" instead. ;)
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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby deadstump » Tue Dec 29, 2009 3:42 am UTC

norsk_heks wrote:To expand on Dingbats' point, I'm not sure there would be any motivation for what you're describing to ever happen. If there are two separate words that need one another, that means they can't be separated, right? What you're describing is different from, say, "run amok", where we can use "run" in a multitude of contexts but only use "amok" with "run". If you could only use "run" with "amok", then they would never be separated, and the only motivation I can think of to call them two separate words would be if they have different morphology, i.e. you could say "ran amok", "runs amok", "running amok", where "run" changes but "amok" doesn't. I don't think we have any words like that in English, and I don't have any evidence of this, but my guess is that if something like that were to happen, where "run" only can occur in the presence of "amok" and vice versa, pretty soon it'd turn into a compound word, or just a regular multi-morphemic word, and we'd be saying "runamoked", "runamoks", and "runamoking". It doesn't seem like there would be any good motivation for two separate words that are ONLY used with each other to remain separate words in a language.


I know I have heard that things have "gone amok" or "went amok". Does that mean that amok actually carries all the meaning and the previous word is just a verb (maybe not a verb, I was never good at grammar)? Can things "drive amok"? Does that make amok a word?

Otis

As a note I just looked up "amok" and it means according to Miriam-Webster online http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/AMOK
It can be a noun, adverb, or an adjective apparently (all with more or less the same meaning), and apparently it has a Malaysian root (I think)

1 : in a murderously frenzied state
2 a : in a violently raging manner b : in an undisciplined, uncontrolled, or faulty manner

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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby lu6cifer » Tue Dec 29, 2009 5:15 am UTC

rabble rouser, maybe?
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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby olubunmi » Tue Dec 29, 2009 12:06 pm UTC

lu6cifer wrote:rabble rouser, maybe?


No, they both have a meaning independent from each other.

sje46 wrote:Tyrannosaurus Rex. Of course, that's not exactly what you're looking for, so I'll just say "abra kadabra" instead. ;)

Tyrannosaurus is used without Rex for the dinosaur, and Rex is a common dog's name, so I'm afraid that won't work.


As for abra kadabra, I often see it spelled as one word ('abracadabra'), and I doubt it has any meaning at all. I 'd say it is just a nonsense expression used in magic tricks.
Also, abra apperantly has an independent meaning, even tough I never heard it before:

Webster's 1913 Dictionary
A´bra
n. 1. A narrow pass or defile; a break in a mesa; the mouth of a cañon.

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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Dec 29, 2009 12:52 pm UTC

olubunmi wrote:Also, abra apperantly has an independent meaning, even tough I never heard it before:

That in itself is irrelevant, because clearly that's a different word than whatever goes with "cadabra".
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Re: Two words that MUST be used together

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Tue Dec 29, 2009 1:03 pm UTC

olubunmi wrote:and Rex is a common dog's name, so I'm afraid that won't work.

Names aside (they're somewhat cheating) it can still be used to mean "king", even if the usage is a bit quaint, such as in "Oedipus Rex".
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