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    #1

    black lorry driver (how to get rid of the ambiguity)

    Hi,

    *self-made*

    The phrase 'black lorry driver' may mean 'the driver of the black lorry' or 'the black driver of the lorry', so I'd like to ask whether or not I get rid of that ambiguity when I put a hypen between the words as in:

    Black-lorry driver: The driver of the black lorry.
    Black lorry-driver: The black driver of the lorry.

    Is it OK?

    Thanks.

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    #2

    Re: black lorry driver (how to get rid of the ambiguity)

    No.

    If it's the lorry that's black, say 'the driver of the black lorry'.

    It's not the same as white van man — a fixed expression in BE.

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    #3

    Re: black lorry driver (how to get rid of the ambiguity)

    Both phrases could be natural in the right context. The hyphens do remove any ambiguity. The second is more likely to occur in real life.
    I am not a teacher.

  1. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: black lorry driver (how to get rid of the ambiguity)

    I think that "the driver of the black lorry" and "the black driver of the lorry" are much less likely to confuse the listener or reader.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

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    #5

    Re: black lorry driver (how to get rid of the ambiguity)

    The hyphens would work in writing, but not in speech. However, it sounds more natural to me to specify the colour of the lorry in most contexts.
    Last edited by Tdol; 28-May-2016 at 19:03. Reason: space

  2. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: black lorry driver (how to get rid of the ambiguity)

    Funny! I read it just the opposite way. Example of American versus British mindsets?
    Last edited by Charlie Bernstein; 28-May-2016 at 18:28.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

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    #7

    Re: black lorry driver (how to get rid of the ambiguity)

    I'd specify the ethnicity of the driver and the colour of the van if I'd witnessed a crime, but in other contexts, the colour of the van would probably matter more.

  3. Skrej's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: black lorry driver (how to get rid of the ambiguity)

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post
    Funny! I read it just the opposite way. Example of American versus British mindsets?

    I don't think so - it's just a question of context. Is the critical information the driver's skin color, or the driver's van color?
    Wear short sleeves! Support your right to bare arms!

  4. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: black lorry driver (how to get rid of the ambiguity)

    Quote Originally Posted by Skrej View Post
    I don't think so - it's just a question of context. Is the critical information the driver's skin color, or the driver's van color?
    Really? If you read about a black truck driver, would you assume it was a black truck?
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

  5. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #10

    Re: black lorry driver (how to get rid of the ambiguity)

    How we read things depends on which words we are most used to seeing together. For me "truck driver" is such a common collocation that I would assume that "black truck driver" meant a truck driver who is black.
    However, if we take "black cab" as a different example, the same isn't true. "Black cabs" are the classic taxis driven in London so if I see "black cab", I assume that's what is being talked about. Therefore, if I see "black cab driver" (in a British setting), I would assume it's "the driver of a black cab" and the colour of the driver is not being mentioned.
    It's the same with the earlier example of "white van man", a commonly used phrase in BrE. It refers to the driver of a white Transit van, commonly used for a lot of businesses. The phrase is used regardless of the colour of the driver - it's just a man driving a white van.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

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