Virgins of various sorts

fred-and-gingerAt Language Log, Arnold Zwicky has posted two remarks about expressions of the sort “x virgin,” meaning someone new to x, whatever that x may be.  In his first  post, Zwicky gives some examples, some very incongruous such as “Pippi virgin” meaning “someone has has not yet read the Pippi Longstocking books.”  He first defines “x virgin” as “someone who has not yet experienced x,” then immediately concedes that this definition is not adequate.  “An Astaire virgin, for instance, is not really someone who hasn’t experienced an Astaire, but refers to experience with something involving a particular Astaire (Fred and not Adele), namely the experience of watching movies starring Fred Astaire.”  The expression “x virgin,” Zwicky explains, is like other noun-noun compounds in that the relationship between the two nouns can be quite complex and indirect, a topic dealt with elsewhere on the same blog.  In his second post, Zwicky asks whether we would expect this profusion of virginities to give rise to a retronym, “sex virgin,” and does in fact find a few examples of this expression in use.

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