"Today, the spider lives between the radio and the plastic giraffe."
Translation:Heute wohnt die Spinne zwischen dem Radio und der Plastikgiraffe.
It's not a word that you would find in a dictionary. It's just how the German writing system adapts to the spoken language. It depends on the stress. It's the same in Hungarian, you are free to make new compound words. In German, of course, you should bother with the endings otherwise. It's not how these words are uttered. In English newly created compound words are usually written separately not really taking care where the actual stresses are.
I wouldn't consider it to be a special word in the sense that you would ever find it in a dictionary or something. Rather, it is simply common when speaking German to combine words (e.g. "Plastik" and "Giraffe") into new nouns (e.g. "Plastikgiraffe") on the fly.
An essentially equivalent act occurs in English, but the words are more likely to remain separate (e.g. the noun phrase "plastic giraffe").
Yes, that's right!
Note that sometimes a word needs an extra letter or two to "glue" it to the following word. For example, to say "bell tower", "die Glocke" + "der Turm" = "der Glockenturm". The 'n' is a sort of glue that is always added to "Glocke" when forming a compound noun. An 's' is added to "die Geburt" + "der Tag" to form "der Geburtstag" (the birthday). I don't know the rules for this, but I think you can develop a feel for it over time. The grammatical gender of the compound is always determined by the grammatical gender of the last noun.
There are some other examples here: https://study.com/academy/lesson/german-compound-nouns-rules-examples.html
Although these compounds are usually written as a single word in German, they are occasionally hyphenated instead. This is sometimes done when it would look especially confusing if written as one word.
i've been trying to figure out a pattern for the "n" and "s" to glue the words together for a while. My partner is a native speaker and he has so far been unable to shed any light. He corrects me when I miss one out or add one that shouldn't be there, but can never explain the reasoning behind it.
This link gives an interesting explanation:
It seems "wohnen" is more appropriate here because the spider "resides" in that location today. "Leben" implies the spider has made a home for itself there, that that location is part of the spider's identity almost.
Not a native speaker so I may be wrong, I don't know.
In another answer, "wohnen" was not accepted because the subject (penguins) was an animal and apparently (according to a comment) "wohnen" is reserved for "living in some sort of accommodation". Is the spider a special case because of its web? Are there other exceptions? Or is "wohnen" generally acceptable and, for example, "Pinguine wohnen dort" should be accepted?
I think it's because a "plastic giraffe" means a giraffe made of plastic. Both "plastik" and "giraffe" are nouns, so would be bunched together to form "Plastikgiraffe".
If something is described as "plastic" in English it means it is moldable/malleable/workable/flexible, so I believe that is the meaning of the adjective "plastisch" as well.