A pain stabbed my heart, as it did every time I saw a girl I loved who was going the opposite direction in this too-big world.

This is what Jack Kerouac writes in On The Road. I'm wondering if the construction "too-big world" is grammatically correct English, since I'm planning to use it in one of my songs (I'm a songwriter) ... Can somebody help me out?

Thanks in advance.


  • 1
    Are you asking whether it's grammatical to create hyphenated compound adjectives, or if the use of "too-big world" is natural English? – Andrew Nov 19 '17 at 23:40

The term "too-big" is a hyphenated adjective. It is very common in English to lump a bunch of words together and construct a hyphenated single word out of them, especially as a modifier.

For example:

The five-year-old girl is following her grandmother.

This rock-hard cake is absolutely awful.

There are some beautiful-looking girls in our school.

Therefore it is grammatical to say "this too-big world". However, if you are asking if this expression sounds natural or common enough, that's another can of worms.

  • I don’t really see the other can of worms. The five-year-old girl is following her too-frail grandmother – that sounds neither unnatural nor uncommon. – J.R. Nov 20 '17 at 9:00
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    @J.R. I added that because we don't usually allow hyphenated adverb+adjective combinations. E.g. you can't say "That is a beautifully-looking girl.*" But rather "That's a beautifully looking girl." "Too" is of course an adverb. There are cases where "too" is safe enough to be included in combinations. "All-too-" as in "That reflects an all-too-common goal." Or in combination with other words. E.g. "That is one too-tall-to-tango hombre." "Too-frail" invokes the Skinny Puppy song "Far Too Frail", which I would argue makes it uniquely more tongue-in-cheek. – Eddie Kal Nov 20 '17 at 21:44

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