A big house building company

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Wrpword, Jul 13, 2008.

  1. Wrpword Senior Member

    With this phrase "A big house building company "

    Can it mean "a big company that builds big houses" / A big company that builds houses / A big company of building houses? / A company of building big houses, while a big-house building company, can it be treated as "A company that builds big houses", then this one can be changed to :=> A company building big houses, while A big-house-building company :=> Can it mean a company of big house building?

    Those samples given for explaining any possible confusion of translation which might occur if without using hyphen properly. Is my understanding correct? Could anyone give me some more examples about these confusions which might lead to ambiguous translation?

    Thank you in anticipation.
  2. pepperfire Senior Member

    Canada - English & French
    A big house building company...

    Without use of hyphens, it is the company that is big and has no regard to the size of the houses they build.

    With the hyphen to give force of meaning to the size of the houses:

    A big-house building company.

    Edited to add... I would not use big-house except in reference to jails or prisons though and instead would say:

    A company that builds big houses.
  3. Smac

    Smac Senior Member

    UK English
    I agree with pepperfire that it is better to avoid the ambiguity by rephrasing the description.

    However, I recall an article in a computer magazine (many years ago) saying something like:
    "Digital Equipment Corporation is a large, small-computer company while Cray is a small, large-computer company". :D
  4. pepperfire Senior Member

    Canada - English & French

    Absolutely fine usage, except that big-house has almost reserved status (at least here in my mind) to refer to a jail or a prison. :D
  5. Wrpword Senior Member

    It is my first time getting to know a big house is a jail, so what should you say it if I mean to say a large or big home in English?

    Thank you all for your comments.
  6. Smac

    Smac Senior Member

    UK English
    That's very interesting. I do not think I have ever met it in that sense (or in any other sense) before now! :D I wonder if that usage is widespread?
  7. pepperfire Senior Member

    Canada - English & French
    If I am talking about a jail: big-house... With the hyphen.
    If I am talking about the size of the house: big house.

    I believe it is widespread, although possibly colloquial to North America.
  8. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The OED agrees with pepperfire. It gives three definitions for big house, sometimes Big House.
    - a large house, frequently the most important house in a country estate.
    - a workhouse (UK slang)
    - a prison (US slang)

    Without hyphens, I would understand the title to refer to a big company that builds houses - with no information at all about the size of houses.
    Why not associate big with house? Because of what I'm used to.
    I am used to hearing about a house-builder, and I have never heard of a big-house builder.
  9. Wrpword Senior Member

    Thank you again, pepperfire for confirming the meaning of this big-house.
  10. Wrpword Senior Member

    Thank you, Panjandrum, that is quite interesting comment!
  11. Matching Mole

    Matching Mole Senior Member

    England, English
    Given that this is not a well-known speciality, and that "big house" sounds a little naive ("big company" much less so), I would suggest going the long way around with this description. Also, multi-hyphenated words are clumsy, in my view, and should be avoided where possible; in fact I would avoid hyphenation here entirely. I would suggest something like "a developer specializing in (the construction of) large houses", or something like that. As this is about business, I might even suggest "large residential properties"; yes, more words, but I think a certain tone is expected in this kind of context, and otherwise it's going to come across—as I said before—naive.
  12. gasman Senior Member

    Canada, English
    To get back to our muttons, what is wrong with a simple comma "a big, house building, company."?
  13. pepperfire Senior Member

    Canada - English & French
    That would, I believe, give the desired result without having to rearrange the words.
  14. Brioche

    Brioche Senior Member

    Australia English
    I don't like the second comma.
    There is no natural pause between house buiding and company.

    In normal speech there would be a slight pause after big, then the other 3 words would be run together.
  15. gasman Senior Member

    Canada, English
    I have no problem with removing the second comma. I was trying to separate the adjectives so that the question of whether the company built big houses, or was a big company, didn't arise.

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