To what extent compound words are appropriate in English? Are the "onthedownburninghouseresting", "firesurrounded" valid words in English?

closed as off-topic by snailboat, StoneyB, ColleenV, user3169, Nigel Harper Oct 12 '14 at 9:14

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  • The longest valid compound word I know is absentmindedness. The two from you are just out of the world ;) – Maulik V Oct 8 '14 at 10:08
  • Did you find these words in a dictionary or some other reference? – user3169 Oct 8 '14 at 16:25
  • Please don't crosspost between ELL and ELU, especially without telling anyone you're doing so. english.stackexchange.com/questions/200432/… – snailboat Oct 11 '14 at 16:14
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is cross-posted to ELU, and we should only have one copy of a question active at a given time. – snailboat Oct 11 '14 at 16:15

In English, compound nouns consisting of more than two words are typically hyphenated.

If you ask the man-on-the-street...

does not mean

If you ask the man on the street...

Man-on-the-street means "the average Joe" or "the average guy". "The man on the street" means "the man who is on the roadway."

There are a handful of such words. But it's also possible to create an almost infinite number of quasi-neologisms by yoking the words in a descriptive phrase in that same manner.

Some women are hat-wearers and some are not.    

He always had a caught-in-the-act-look on his face. 

or alternatively, a compound adjective:

He always had a caught-in-the-act look on his face.
  • Should I hyphenate only those words that include articles and prepositions? – Anixx Oct 9 '14 at 17:39
  • See the answer for the answer. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 9 '14 at 17:58

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