Contemporary media language (but not only) constantly reverts to compound adjectives like jaw-dropping and game-changing to spice up the discourse. Such items are the product of adjectivizing verb phrases, hence “drop [one’s] jaw” is the source of jaw-dropping and “change [the] game” the source of game-changing. These neologisms draw on a time-tested morphological pattern in the history of English, which has given us back-breaking and nit-picking et al. along the way.

What is it about this derivational pattern that contributes to its current productivity? There is always the possibility of using a non-compound deverbal adjective like astounding (instead of jaw-dropping) and revolutionary (instead of game-changing). Naturally, the connotations of these simple adjectives are not identical, there being no such thing as perfect synonymy. But the most salient difference is the presence of the semantic category of PROCESS in the compounds, derived from the fact that the objective complement of the verb is specified in the derived adjective. It is this necessary presence of the verbal complement in these new deverbal adjectives that gives rise to their popularity as a matter of linguistic iconicity. More specifically, PROCESS rather than RESULT being the distinctive feature of 21st-century American culture, this adjectivization of a verb phrase can be assessed as a diagrammatization in language of an overarching societal value.