First, Is it idiomatic to say

A bad reputation was circulating about him on the student grapevine.

That's a self-made sentence. I am wondering if I can generally add an attributive noun before "grapevine" to create a compound noun? Like

  • the worker grapevine
  • the nurse grapevine
  • the teacher grapevine
  • the driver grapevine
  • and so on

Edited later: After @Jason Bassford's answer, I changed "colective noun" to "compound noun" as @Eddie Kal suggested.

  • Just a personal opinion that "on the grapevine" is a deliberately vague expression by definition, so if you feel that specificity is needed, it's better to use something else. – the-baby-is-you Jun 9 '19 at 16:45
  • 1
    I think the term you are aiming for is "compound noun". As Jason Bassford notes in their answer, you list doesn't contain any collective nouns. – Eddie Kal Jun 10 '19 at 3:40

You can, although in many cases a possessive (genitive) form will be more natural, particularly when the noun is not normally used as an adjective without change of form.

  • the worker's grapevine
  • the nurse's grapevine
  • the teacher's grapevine
  • the driver's grapevine

"Student" is often used as an adjective, as in "a student production of the play" or 'a student driver". This is not true of most of your other example nouns.


Note: This answer addressed the original question that had been asked.

No, adding an adjectivally acting noun to a noun doesn't turn it into a collective noun.

A collective noun is a word for a single thing that is made up of multiple members.

Examples, from Ginger, include:

  • Herd – A group of herbivore animals
  • Swarm – A group of insects
  • Crowd – Usually used to describe a group of people
  • Choir – A large, organized group of singers
  • Set – A tidy group of matched objects such as dishes; also used to describe rules or a social group of people
  • Stack – A group of items neatly laid one on top of another; i.e., a stack of books

Whether or not you precede the noun with another noun that acts to narrow its scope, the status of the noun that's being modified remains the same.

The following are my own examples.

  • The crowd. It is already a collective noun.
  • The student crowd. It is still a collective noun, but now it's been narrowed to specify a crowd related to students.
  • The buildings. This is not a collective noun. It simply refers to physical structures.
  • The student buildings. It is still not a collective noun, but it's now referring to buildings designed for students.

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