as ADJ of a N as

Joanne M. Despres jdespres at MERRIAM-WEBSTER.COM
Wed Feb 18 20:13:22 UTC 2004

I've heard this construction before, but it's not very commonly used
where I come from (northeastern MA) or where I now live (western
MA).  I think of it as colloquial and technically ungrammatical, in
English at least.  I'm not well versed enough in linguistics to
comment on your characterization of the construction, but it
reminds me a lot of the partitive genitive in that it seems to imply
that the thing referred to is one example of a larger group of similar

For what it's worth...

On 18 Feb 2004, at 14:06, Joan Houston Hall wrote:

> DARE treats it at "of"  section B, subsection g.  It's pretty well
> scattered, but somewhat more common in the South.
> At 06:13 PM 2/18/2004 +0000, you wrote:
> >---------------------- Information from the mail header
> >-----------------------
> >Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> >Poster:       Lynne Murphy <M.L.Murphy at SUSSEX.AC.UK>
> >Subject:      as ADJ of a N as
> >-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >
> >Hello all,
> >
> >I've been off the list for some time tentatively coming back to
> >find out whether there is such thing as a healthy work-ADS-L balance.  An
> >especially hearty 'hello' to those I used to regularly correspond with
> >through this medium.
> >
> >Anyhow...a query.
> >
> >A colleague here read an American student's phrasing "As old of a joke as
> >this is..." and queried whether the rest of us could say such a thing.
> >(Almost) needless to say, I could, but my British colleagues couldn't.
> >
> >Some other examples via google:
> >
> >It's as nice of a stock trailer as you will ever see.
> >
> >As old of a game it is, it stays fresh...
> >
> >Even if it did, its concentration would be much less than it is now, so it
> >wouldn't
> >pose as serious of a threat as it does to South Asian residents (this e.g.,
> >is actually Canadian).
> >
> >The British can say "as old a joke as this", so it's the _of_ that's
> >particularly N American.  (I can say it either way, and suspect that other
> >Americans can too, but let me know if I've been Anglified.)
> >
> >My 'theory' about it:
> >I'd guess that the 'of' could be considered something like an (would I be
> >inventing this concept?) 'epenthetic morpheme' that's inserted in order to
> >prevent a perceived ungrammatical string ('nice a stock trailer', 'old a
> >joke')  (Could we talk of morphotactic or grammotactic or syntactotactic
> >constraints here?).  I think one hears 'of' used in such a way in other
> >American constructions (and I remember in Texas feeling that some of my
> >students inserted 'of's into sentences willy-nilly--but part of that was
> >the perception that they'd use 'of' when they should have used a different
> >preposition). Unfortunately, I can't think of those other constructions...
> >
> >So, my questions:
> >
> >1.  Is it regional in N Amer?  Is it considered to be lower-register in any
> >way?
> >
> >2.  How would you parse the phrase---is it [[As Adj] [of NP}] or [As [Adj
> >[of NP]]?
> >
> >3.  Would you agree with the 'epenthetic' of analysis?  Can you think of
> >other cases of epenthetic 'of'?
> >
> >4.  Is there anything published on this construction?
> >
> >
> >Thanks in advance...
> >
> >Lynne
> >Dr M Lynne Murphy
> >Lecturer in Linguistics
> >
> >Department of Linguistics and English Language
> >Arts B133
> >University of Sussex
> >Falmer
> >Brighton BN1 9QN
> > >From UK:  (01273) 678844
> >Outside UK: +44-1273-678844

Joanne M. Despres, Senior Editor
Merriam-Webster, Inc.
jdespres at

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