Compounds Like Blackbird and Catbird
1. Compound words like somebody and anyplace simply combine two separate word into one: What used to be some body combines to become somebody; any place combines to become anyplace. Two words become one.
But notice this pattern: A blackbird is a bird that is black.
The compound blackbird doesn't just combine black and bird into one word. It gives us a short way to say “bird that is black.”
There are several compound words that fit this same pattern. Fill in the blanks:
A bird that is black is a blackbird.
A bird that is blue is a bluebird .
A berry that is black is a blackberry .
A board that is black is a blackboard .
A print that is blue is a blueprint .
A room that is dark is a darkroom.
A man who is English is an Englishman .
A cat that is wild is a wildcat .
Lands that are wet are wetlands.
Paper that is waste is wastepaper.
2. Now try some the other way around:
A blackbird is a bird that is black .
A redbird is a bird that is red .
A hothouse is a house that is hot .
A nobleman is a man who is noble.
A madman is a man who is mad.
Lowlands are lands that are low .
A longhouse is a house that is long.
Bluegrass is grass that is blue.
A flatcar is a car that is flat .
Gentlewomen are women who are gentle.
A wildfire is a fire that is wild .
3. Now think about this pattern: A catbird is a bird like a cat.
To understand the compound catbird you need to understand how a catbird is like a cat.A catbird has several calls, one of which sounds like a cat's mewing. So a catbird is a bird that is like a cat because of the way it sounds.
See if you can figure out these:
If a catbird is a bird that is like a cat because of its sound, then a starfish is a fish that is like a star because of its shape.
A firefly is a fly that is like a fire because of its light .
Try some the other way around:
A fish that is like the sun because of its color is a sunfish
A fish that is like a cat because of its whiskers isa catfish .
A fruit that is like bread because of its texture is breadfruit.
Work with compound words adds a semantic factor to the kind of analysis students do in many of their tables and in Watch the Middles. It also can help them see that words do have a logic and a structure to them. It can help them see unity and patterning where most likely they did not see it before.