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   From: cowan@marob.masa.com (John Cowan)
   Date: Wed, 30 May 90 9:55:44 EDT
   The elements of the tanru are to be taken literally; the relationship
   between them is where the ambiguity/undefinedness creeps in.  Thus a
   "blanu zdani" is a "blue-type-of nest":  it could be a nest which is blue,
   or a nest for things which are blue, etc.  However, the word "blue" cannot
   be taken in a figurative sense (= "depressed, e.g.), nor can the word "nest".
   They are literally meant.

You are saying that compounds may be used metaphorically but single
words cannot.  (a) I don't see why that should be.  (b) Regardless
of what I say or what you say, I confidently predict that in a living
language people will use single words metaphorically and will also
use such metaphorical meanings when building compounds.

Therefore, purely for the sake of some perverse examples,
allow me to suggest that I might well use "blanu zdani",
under appropriate circumstances, to mean:

a "den of corruption" or "house of ill repute" (cf. English "blue laws")

a police station

a collection of IBM PC hackers (cf. "Big Blue" nickname for IBM)

home of parents who are sad because their children have grown up
   and moved out (cf. "empty nest")

a clothing store specializing in denim

any place of sanctuary from the eugenics squad (because by the year
   2040 there will be genetic police and once in the year 2042
   a clergyman hid a refugee behind an altar that happened to be
   covered with a blue velvet altarcloth)

... and so on.

I think it is clear that in each case I am speaking of a
((blue-in-some-sense)-type-of nest-in-some-sense)-in-some-sense.

Forbidding the possibility to call any of these "blanu zdani" simply
because "blanu" or "zdani" was not intended in its literal sense
would greatly impoverish the expressive power of the language.

Or have I missed the point?

--Guy Steele

P.S. Consider also the fact that different cultures (and professions)
have yet other methaphorical associations for the color blue, if not
also for the concept of "nest".

By the way, forgive me for being ignorant of the precise literal
meaning of "zdani"; for the purposes of the illustrations above
I assumed it meant a bird's nest.  I don't know whether it
covers a nest of bowls or of Russian dolls, for example.  Sorry.