What the hell does the title of this piece mean?
Let's break it down, in reverse order:
* Compound words -- I'm sure you know what a compound word is: Two or more words joined together to form a new word.
* Triple -- Now I'm just making stuff up. My idea here is that most closed English compounds are formed with a pair of words -- but there are very few instances, in English, of three joined words.
* Closed (or "solid") -- Just means that the compounded words are mashed right together (e.g., wallpaper) instead of hyphenated (e.g., single-minded) or separated by a space (e.g., dead end, which, if closed, would make the wonderful "deadend"!).
* English -- Duh. Or not so "duh"? Keep reading to learn about the relevant controversy surrounding this seemingly innocent term!
Okay--so you're with me so far? Good! I've been collecting a few closed English triple compound words that I'd like to share. Many of them can be grouped according to key "root" words. Some dictionaries will differ, but I found all of these listed somewhere. I'll also share a few good fakes and questionable entries. Let me know if you have others! (One ground rule--I am excluding scientific mumbo-jumbo, so please don't break out your chemistry books.)
There are a handful of triples created by adding "man"/"men" to a pre-existing compound. I reckon you could do the same with "woman"/"women", "person", and, if you wanted to cross the line, "bot".
Supermen warrant their own category! (Surely there are other "super" triple plays?)
* Eastsoutheast, etc.
Lots of triples are formed by placing a word in front of "soever":
I nearly overlooked this entire family, quite forgetting that upon is "up" "on"! Actually, I suspect that this just a subset of a larger "…up…" family, but I couldn't come, er, up with anymore.
Do you have any more to offer? Note that there are some mini-groups here ("here…", "inso…", "…the…"), which may help to jog your memory…
* insofar -- perhaps the shortest of all English closed triple compound words!
* nevertheless -- if dig back real deep and consider "never" as a contraction ("n(ot)ever"), this is close to quadruple territory!
* whatshisname, whatshername, whatshisface (debatable, I'll grant you, but these seem to be in common usage at this point)
What's your opinion on these candidates? Anymore good fakes out there?
* highwayman (and superhighway) -- On the one hand, "highway" does seem to refer to the high way (rather than the main way), but the term is so old that it actually stems from OE heiweg via ME heyewey, both of which are compounds. In otherwords (teehee), "highway" may not be directly formed from mashing "high" with "way", but the compound was originally formed in English (albiet Old English), and the root words both "translated" individually as the word carried forward to contemporary English.
* nowadays -- Similar to my "highway" concern, "nowadays" stems from ME nouadaies which was a joing of nou ("now") and adaies ("during the day"). Adaies was, as best as I can tell, a contraction formed from a (short for "of"?) and daies for days. Nowadays, however, "nowadays" feels like a joining of "now", "a" (bastardized "of"), and "days".
* wherewithal and therewithal -- "Withal" is a word in its own right, but I think that it does stem from ME joining of with and al ("all").
* woebegone -- Not actually "woe" "be" "gone" :-) Instead, this stems from ME wo ("woe") joined with begon (means "beset"). Anyone want to argue that ME begon stems from an OE compound of be and go, which would make this a triple play if we count a ME/OE blend as fair game?
My favorite category of all!
* buttonhole -- "but" "ton" "hole"
* catalog -- "cat" "a" "log"?
* cot'ton'mouth (& cot'ton'tail & cot'ton'wood)
* do'or'knob (& …man, …mat, & …way)
* feat'her'bed (& …weight)
* sports'man'ship -- My favorite fake! Plenty others in this vein (e.g., "gamesmanship", "horsemanship", "seamanship")… (My hat's tipped, bytheway [hahaha], to Paul's Glob for a number of these triple plays, including the wonderful "sportsmanship"!)
My thanks to ohsuplauren for the idea of mashing compounds together. For example, moreover + overrule = moreoverrule. You can also get sillier: goldfish + fisherman = goldfisherman. Here are a few more: