'Fellow-worker' hyphenation

tubthumping

Member
Català
Last night, I watched Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times for the first time.

One of the text cards caught my eye. It read, "One of the burglars, Big Bill, "recognizes a fellow-worker from the steel mills."

"Fellow-worker" was hyphenated as such. I've done a few minutes of research and it seems like this hyphenation was more or less standard at the time.

Can someone please explain me why this was hyphenated? Would all fellow- words be as well? Fellow-pilot? Fellow-human?

Thanks much!
 
  • Florentia52

    Modwoman in the attic
    English - United States
    We would not normally hyphenate "fellow worker" in this context. Eighty years ago, when the film was made, different standards may have applied.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    There are many words that are compounds of "fellow". There is no 'rule' for hyphenation of compound nouns, so you are likely to see "fellow worker" and "fellow-worker". You might even see "fellowworker"
    1611 Bible (King James) Coloss. iv. 11 These..are my fellowworkers vnto the kingdome of God.
    The same applies to other compound nouns, whether they start with "fellow" or another noun (eg golf-trolley, golf trolley). It's a matter of style, convention and personal choice. As Florentia suggests, the tendency now is to omit the hyphen.
     

    tubthumping

    Member
    Català
    Ah, I see where I went wrong. I assumed "fellow" here served as an adjective, not another noun. Thanks for the responses!
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    It is a noun used attributively - that is, it functions as a modifier of the second noun - so you can look at it as functioning as an adjective.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    It is an adjective in its own right when it's used to qualify a noun (unlike "golf" in the compound "golf ball").

    WRF dictionary (Collins Random House)
    adj.
    1. belonging to the same class or group;
      united by the same occupation, interests, etc.;
      being in the same condition:fellow students; fellow sufferers.
     
    Last edited:

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    veli, I think you'll find that the OED disagrees about the word being an adjective in its own right. It's a moot point - when does a noun used attributively become an adjective? I'd be interested in your explanation of why "fellow worker" and "golf ball" are grammatically different.
    A woman is not a "fellow"
    You are forgetting the original meaning of "fellow" and several of the later and still current meanings, which have nothing to do with gender.
    One who shares with another in a possession, official dignity, or in the performance of any work; a partner, colleague, co-worker. Also, one united with another in a covenant for common ends; an ally. Obs.

    One who shares with another in any attribute; one belonging to the same class

    One of a company or party whose interests are common; a member.
    There are plenty of Fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons, the Royal College of Physicians and several other such institutions who are most certainly women.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    "Fellow" in " fellow worker" has a different meaning from the noun "a fellow" (a man, a chap). With this different meaning, I think I'm right in saying that it's used exclusively as an adjective (at least, it has some of the characteristics of an adjective).
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    "Fellow" in " fellow worker" has a different meaning from the noun "a fellow" (a man, a chap). With this different meaning, I think I'm right in saying that it's used exclusively as an adjective .
    But that meaning of the noun "fellow" is only one of several, and some of the other meanings, including the original, are in my post 8. The one relevant to "fellow-worker" is
    One who shares with another in any attribute; one belonging to the same class
    That meaning is certainly used as a noun. "Here are some shoes - take this one - now where's its fellow" is an example that comes to mind.
    From the British National Corpus:
    I will never name any ‘associate’ — any friend or fellow of mine.
    He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1738, having been proposed by Sir Hans Sloane and other eminent scientists of the day.
    Another effective combination is square and circular pictures, perhaps with one of the square pictures above its fellow, and a circular picture either side.
    All the pictures had matching frames and a pinky-peach colour scheme, but every picture was an individual design and completely different from its fellow.
    Can a chimp plan ahead of time, either on its own behalf or on behalf of its fellow?
    If this is so, identically placed lesions at the two sides will not necessarily have equivalent effects, even though each intact hemisphere may be equally as capable as its fellow of subserving a given function.
    The symmetry of his body and the smoothness of his movements were thrown out of balance by the slight bulge that heaved one shoulder out of line with its fellow.
    The house has three show façades, each one isolated from its fellow around the corner, each one with different window surrounds.
    One of the horses whiffled a protest and shuffled a hoof, dragging slightly at the tether that held it and its fellow securely fastened to the single lamp-post, which imperfectly lit the inn yard, its small flame dancing as the glass about it shook in the uncertain weather.
    All nouns, and not a gender-specific chap amongst them.
    (at least, it has some of the characteristics of an adjective)
    Indeed - a noun used attributively. The use of "fellow", a noun, to modify another noun is no different from using "golf" to modify "ball" or "umbrella" to modify "stand". It looks as though the editor of the OED at the time of the 2nd Edition was not persuaded that the word should be reclassified as an adjective, but more recent dictionary editors (including Oxford Online as well as Collins) have decided that it is so often used attributively that reclassification is appropriate. The Oxford Online definition is
    Sharing a particular activity, quality, or condition with someone or something.
    which seems to me to be pretty close to
    One who shares with another in any attribute; one belonging to the same class
    The disappearance of the hyphen reflects the change from compound noun to noun phrase, but how can anybody maintain that "golf" in "golf club" is a noun and "fellow" in "fellow worker" is an adjective when they have identical use - and both unarguably started their linguistic lives as nouns?
     
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