Donald M. Lance LanceDM at MISSOURI.EDU
Thu Dec 7 18:22:34 UTC 2000

Isn't "ein Paar" used this way in German too?

Laurence Horn wrote:

> At 7:42 AM -0500 12/7/00, Paul McFedries wrote:
> >And another thing...
> >
> >Since the informal couple (sans of) usage means "two or a few," could it
> >also be related to the expression "couple, two, three," as seen in the
> >following cite from something called "Denver Westword":
> >
> >"He admitted to having had sex with her a 'couple, two, three times,' the
> >first in August 1998."
> >
> >This would also seem to mean "two or a few," so perhaps in addition to
> >Dennis' phonological argument, the informal couple is a shortening of this
> >longer and puzzlingly redundant phrase. This would require that "couple,
> >two, three" have had widespread usage in the past, so perhaps I'm making
> >things too complicated again.
> >
> Interestingly, the OED cites this sense:
> b. (With 'of' omitted) = couple of (cf. coupla; U.S. colloq.).
>         1925 S. Lewis Martin Arrowsmith xvi. 188 A couple months in Italy.
>         1934 D. Hammett Thin Man xxii. 173 She touched me for a couple
> hundred to blow town.
> as well as the above-mentioned "coupla":
> coupla, orig. U.S. Colloquial form of  'couple of'.
>         1908 H. Green Actors' Boarding House 254 A coupla parties is
> come for rooms!
>         1934 D. L. Sayers Nine Tailors iii. ii. 276 He'd had nothing
> to eat..for a coupla days.
> But in neither case does it "allow" for the meaning to be looser, in
> a cardinal sense, from that of 'couple'.  The OED does acknowledge
> degrees of looseness in whether the two items in a couple have to be
> a real yoked pair, rather than just two items of the same kind:
> [COUPLE, 7a]
> 'Two individuals (persons, animals, or things) of the same sort taken
> together; properly used of such as are paired or associated by some
> common function or relation; but often
> loosely, as a mere synonym for two'
> My own intuition is that "a couple of Xs" (and not just "a couple
> Xs") can be used when the speaker is allowing for there being two or
> (somewhat) more Xs.  Of course, this is true for "two" as well, and
> for all scalar terms, but my sense is that "couple" is inherently
> vaguer in its cardinality than "two".  This only applies to cases
> where it serves as a quantifier of another head noun; I can't say of
> a congenial m'enage a' trois that they're a nice couple.   [Notice
> also that the OED's definition of head-noun "couple" is as
> heterosexist as its definition of "love":  'a man and woman united by
> love or marriage'.  Jesse, can we change that?  Or has it already
> been done?]
> larry

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