Cavemen and postmen and explanation

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For those who were interested in Mark's post on the curious question of when the -man suffix gets a reduced vowel (woman, fireman, madman, milkman, gunman, batman, Batman, caveman, postman, weatherman, etc.), and especially for those who commented on it, Ben Yagoda has now written insightfully on the topic over at Lingua Franca.

I think what interests me most about it is the way people seek an explanation, usually one stemming from meaning or logic. Everyone yearns for the facts about language to follow from something, to make some kind of sense. I might write about that yearning at length some day soon. Maybe. Though my own behavior is as irregular as some (but not all) of our pronunciation system, so you never can tell.

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