Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Long sleeve? Long-sleeved? Halp!
October 2, 2009 9:35 AM   Subscribe

Please hope me with this seemingly-basic English grammar/spelling question! Which is correct: "long-sleeve t-shirt" or "long-sleeved t-shirt"? Is there supposed to be a hyphen between "long" and "sleeve(d)?

This keeps coming up at work and I can't find any online grammar resource that covers it. I was writing "long-sleeved" but several people corrected me*.

*I still think I'm right, but I need some concrete evidence. And if I'm wrong I'd certainly like to start writing it correctly!
posted by radioamy to Education (38 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
A long sleeved t-shirt is ambiguous. Does long refer to the sleeve length or the t-shirt length? Long-sleeved t-shirt eliminates that.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 9:38 AM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think you were right. The people who corrected you probably also find nothing wrong with "whip cream" (instead of whipped) - but by extension, are "devil eggs" or "toast marshmallows" okay? Grammatically (if not dietarily), I say no.

Yes on the hyphen.
posted by lakeroon at 9:39 AM on October 2, 2009


Yabbut the question was the approriateness of the d, not the location of the hyphen.
posted by Pax at 9:39 AM on October 2, 2009


I think you were right, too. Iced tea.
posted by Pax at 9:40 AM on October 2, 2009


long-sleeved t-shirt
posted by mrbarrett.com at 9:41 AM on October 2, 2009


You use the hyphen to indicate that long applies to the sleeves and not the T-shirt. However, the trend in English, to my continuing dismay, seems to be toward concatenation and not hyphenation. However that doesn't seem to be the case in this situation.

A Google search for "Long Sleeve" yields about ten times as many results as "Long Sleeved". So I would say the trailing d probably isn't the accepted usage.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:41 AM on October 2, 2009


They're both correct.

Do whatever your workplace's house style is.

Here's the rationale: "Long-sleeve" can be used as a compound adjective to modify "t-shirt." "Long-sleeved" can be used as a participal adjective to modify "t-shirt."

See also "red-wing blackbird" vs. "red-winged blackbird," a debate that nearly brought some people at the Audubon Society to fisticuffs.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:41 AM on October 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Sleeved is the adjectival form of sleeve. Sleeve is not an adjective.
posted by jedicus at 9:42 AM on October 2, 2009


But it's never, ever "iced tea" any more than it's "iced cream." In the US, at least.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:42 AM on October 2, 2009


Sleeve is not an adjective.

You know, I almost got into more detail about that, but then I thought, "Nobody is going to pick that particular nit."

"Sleeve" is not an adjective, and nor is "wing", but "long-sleeve" and "red-wing" are used as adjectival phrases.

The answer here is to do what the house style is. "Long-sleeve" is much more common in US retail catalog style than is "long-sleeved." If someone wants to get all prescriptivist and call that "wrong", or call "ice tea" wrong, be my guest.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:45 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sidhedevil: "Do whatever your workplace's house style is."

Oh man you have no idea how funny that statement is to me. I work for a small non-profit...we have a hard enough time standardizing our logo, let alone using correct grammar! But I digress.
posted by radioamy at 9:45 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Speaking as a Brit who lives in America, I would say that long-sleeve is the more common use over here, whereas long-sleeved would be the dominant form over there. In the same way you Yanks say Ice Tea, whereas we say Iced Tea (not that we drink it).

But per Sidhedevil, they're both correct.
posted by momentofmagnus at 9:46 AM on October 2, 2009


But it's never, ever "iced tea" any more than it's "iced cream."

Heresy! I suppose next you'll tell us it's supposed to be "mash potatoes"!
posted by adamrice at 9:46 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sidhedevil: "They're both correct.

Do whatever your workplace's house style is.

Here's the rationale: "Long-sleeve" can be used as a compound adjective to modify "t-shirt." "Long-sleeved" can be used as a participal adjective to modify "t-shirt.
"

Can you please explain the a compound vs. participal adjective?
posted by radioamy at 9:47 AM on October 2, 2009


"Long-sleeved" is an example of a phrasal adjective. As such, you should use "sleeved" because it is an adjective (as opposed to a noun like "sleeve") and you should connect the two adjectives ("long" and "sleeved") with a hyphen.
posted by kellygreen at 9:48 AM on October 2, 2009


But it's never, ever "iced tea" any more than it's "iced cream." In the US, at least.

You're completely wrong there, even from a descriptivist point of view. For example, Long Island Iced Tea, Lipton Iced Tea, Luzianne Iced Tea, etc.
posted by jedicus at 9:49 AM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I meant to add that "iced cream" became "ice cream" while "iced tea" remained unchanged for reasons related to pronunciation, not grammar.
posted by jedicus at 9:50 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


NYTimes uses "long-sleeve T-shirt." (Note the capital T.) There's an instance of "long-sleeved" on their site, but it's an AP article.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:02 AM on October 2, 2009


As a non-native English speaker, these issues were a little confusing to me at first. "Sleeved" is indeed the adjectival form of "sleeve," but it isn't the only one. "Sleeve" is one as well, at least in common usage, which is what matters. (Where I used to work, I liked the envelopes called - on the side of the package - "sleeve envelopes," because they were very wide and I didn't have to fold paper as much to fit it in.)

I've seen "iced tea" on many menus.

Essentially, the "-ed" tends to get dropped over time, especially in speech. It's still "mashed potatoes" in writing (by about a 20 to 1 margin), but in speech it tends to come out as "mash potatoes more often than not - even if the speakers wouldn't spell it that way.

The people who corrected you probably also find nothing wrong with "whip cream" (instead of whipped) - but by extension, are "devil eggs" or "toast marshmallows" okay? Grammatically (if not dietarily), I say no.

I'd go with long-sleeved as being more correct, but I like to sound quite "educated" - this doesn't make me right, though. In truth, usage is what it is, and this is an example that won't raise too many eyebrows. "Extension" is an unreliable factor in something as full of exceptions as language. What lakeroon fails to consider is that "iced" and "mashed" and "whip" don't lose much when they drop the "-ed." "Toast," however, would lose an entire syllable - that would be pretty noticeable. "Deviled," would lose the strict contrast that the "d" would make against a vowel (stronger than the "l") and I'd argue too, that the "-ed" at the end of deviled makes for a longer syllable than you'd have otherwise. Together, those two factors make it harder for the "-ed" to be lost.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 10:04 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


forum.wordreference.com is your friend. I love the interwebs.
posted by d. z. wang at 10:08 AM on October 2, 2009


"Long-sleeved" is a compound adjective, modifying "t-shirt." While it's not universal, the general practice is to hyphenate compound adjectives, especially in cases where not doing so could lead to ambiguity.

For example, if I wrote "paper towel holder," does that describe a holder for paper towels or a holder (for towels) made out of paper? The likelihood that anyone would be confused is, admittedly, pretty low. But a hyphen removes even that minor chance of misunderstanding.

I eat ice cream--sometimes with whipped cream--and occasionally drink iced tea. I am large, I contain multitudes.

Standard caveat (to shield me from the wrath of linguists): prescriptive rules of grammar are an attempt to order the chaos of usage. What is "correct" varies from one authority to another and the very idea of having/needing authorities on such things is open to debate. What is correct depends upon the rules under which you're willing to operate.
posted by wheat at 10:08 AM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


The t-shirt is long-sleeved.

The t-shirt has long sleeves.

The t-shirt has a long sleeve.
posted by Rendus at 10:39 AM on October 2, 2009


All the people saying that the proper, normal form in the US is not "iced tea" are correct. But the proper normal form is not "ice tea" either.

The proper normal form in the US is "tea," as distinguished from "hot tea" like them English fellers drink.

By the same token, in civilized locations a restaurant might offer for sale tea, unsweet tea, and hot tea. Anything else is COMMANISM.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:43 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


To see ambiguity in the hyphenless version you have to deliberately look for it - parsing it as "long (sleeved t-shirt)" is odd because people don't talk about a "sleeved t-shirt". Having sleeves is the unmarked version.

As a result, the hyphenless version is pretty common. Of the first 50 hits for "long sleeved t-shirt" in Google (and Google ignores hyphens), about 19 had hyphens.
posted by Electric Dragon at 10:44 AM on October 2, 2009


I agree with the above logic for why it should have a hyphen, but manufacturers from Hanes to American Apparel use "Long Sleeve T-Shirt".
posted by smackfu at 11:22 AM on October 2, 2009


You could also just call it a "jersey."
posted by musofire at 11:23 AM on October 2, 2009


long-sleeved shirt (or long-sleeved t-shirt)

iced tea
posted by amtho at 11:27 AM on October 2, 2009


longly sleeved!
posted by Askr at 11:30 AM on October 2, 2009


Interesting answers so far! I suppose I'm more interested in the grammatically-inclined answers, rather than "what comes up in a Google search."
posted by radioamy at 11:32 AM on October 2, 2009


Though I like the refined sound of "long-sleeved," I'm going to have to go with "long-sleeve T-shirt*" Think about it with other features; you would sell a "breast-pocket polo shirt," not a "breast-pocketed polo shirt," and you'd sport "cargo-pocket dungarees," not "cargo-pocketed."

The "ice/iced" is a distraction, because icing something is to cool it, and "iced" is being used as a past participle. One doesn't "sleeve" shirts, so it's not analogous.

*Capital T because the shirt's not shaped like a "t", but a "T."

Iced tea is delicious. Ice T is a rapper-turned-actor. Ice Tea is a spelling error.
posted by explosion at 11:41 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


How about looking to see what major clothing companies do (Gap, Hanes, American Apparel, etc.) and follow the majority?

Regardless of what is technically grammatically correct, you might want to follow the common usage in sales copy.
posted by kenliu at 12:28 PM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


As a (possibly interesting to someone but not particularly relevant to the question at hand) aside, I've always been fairly careful to write 'T-shirt', like the New York Times in roger ackroyd's comment. It's a 'T-shirt' because it's shaped like the capital letter. A lower-case 't-shirt' would just look poorly tailored.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 1:05 PM on October 2, 2009


Which I see exlosion already said.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 1:06 PM on October 2, 2009


No! It's a long sleeved shirt. I have an aggressive, alcohol fueled theory (yes, it's 5 o'clock somewhere.) I think this is one of those cases where people who aren't used to reading a phrase (or at all) mishear it and then write what they hear. Say it out loud. "Long sleeved" unless you crazily over-pronounce it "long sleeve-ed" the D drops off. People hear it as "long sleeve" and then write it this way.
To all you long sleevers, I'm not calling you illiterate. But generations of previous illiterates have poisoned the well. This is why you see people write things like "for all intensive purposes" and "chomping at the bit."
Confession; I recently saw one question of Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? (don't judge me,or my judging of people who watch and enjoy this travesty. I was in a hotel room room with only one channel in English and I was getting ready to go out to dinner, which was lovely.) They put up a sentence and the guy had to determine if it was grammatically correct. "Little Susie should of taken the morning after pill." Of course, when read out loud, it sounds like should've. If the question hadn't also been written out it would've sounded right. So how did this DB get it wrong? Even worse, how could he get it wrong and still be allowed to continue? That's what I mean by "travesty."
In conclusion, long sleeved.

Sincerely,
Todd Lokken
posted by ActingTheGoat at 1:17 PM on October 2, 2009


I can't speak to the "sleeve" vs. "sleeved" question, but there should definitely be a hyphen—"long-sleeved" is a compound modifier.
posted by ixohoxi at 2:32 PM on October 2, 2009


I suppose I'm more interested in the grammatically-inclined answers, rather than "what comes up in a Google search."

If you worship too much at the Altar of Grammar, you end up doing things like calling aces and eights "two pairs" at a poker game, because JEEZ GUYS THE PLURAL OF PAIR IS PAIRS YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG.

If enough people do something wrong, it becomes an exception instead of a mistake. A brief scanning of t-shirt companies leads me to believe that it's a long-sleeve shirt.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:38 AM on October 3, 2009


23skidoo: " If enough people do something wrong, it becomes an exception instead of a mistake. A brief scanning of t-shirt companies leads me to believe that it's a long-sleeve shirt."

I know I know...but...ugh...that reminds me of "nu-cue-lur"...
posted by radioamy at 8:48 AM on October 3, 2009


For every cringe-worthy nukular that people point to as the Collapse of Everything That We as a People Hold Dear, there's a Febyouary or a comfterble that people can hear and use and not notice or care about. It's okay for some words to not adhere to the grammar and pronunciation rules that most other words adhere to.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:12 AM on October 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


« Older Where would you go to get a ch...   |  How do I clearly list the 2 jo... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.