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

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ademoglu

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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.
 

Rover_KE

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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.
 

GoesStation

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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.
 

Charlie Bernstein

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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.
 

Tdol

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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.
 
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Charlie Bernstein

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Funny! I read it just the opposite way. Example of American versus British mindsets?
 
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Tdol

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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.
 

Skrej

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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?
 

Charlie Bernstein

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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?
 

emsr2d2

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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.
 

Charlie Bernstein

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Yes, indeed! We had a long thread here a year or two ago that talked about how funny two adjectives and a noun can be. It had lots of silly examples illustrating why something like "black lorry driver" should be rephrased.
 
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