Yes, as Simon points out, there are exceptions even in English to the head noun being the right/final noun in noun-noun (compound noun) phrases, though as John points out, that is generally true. Typically pre-head elements are attributive and post-head elements are predicative (and given left-right Subject-Verb-Object order in English, the predicative is on the right), but the actual head is the issue. Often a clue is which noun you can pluralize, but even that has exceptions, since many people allow for equivalent interpretations:
In general, hyphenated or string-concatenated noun-noun compounds are clearer, but because they are lexicalized, they often have idiosyncratic meanings. Example: broomstick, egghead, night-rider.
From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Simon Spero
Sent: Thursday, June 02, 2011 2:07 PM
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Bad language - no biscuit.
On Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 11:43 PM, John F. Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
I have no idea what you mean by that comment. Is that agreement or disagreement?
>> But in English, a Noun-Noun phrase simply means that Noun1 has some relationship to Noun2 that modifies or restricts its meaning.
> I'm afraid I'm going to have to refer your remark to the attorney general, you egghead.
Just a couple of examples of exceptions to the common pattern. Attorney General is the default example of a left-headed compound in English (Attorney is the noun that is modified). This is almost certainly due to the French origins of the phrase.
Egghead is a compound where the meaning is external to both components of the compound.