Contraction in comparatives

Mark A. Mandel mamandel at LDC.UPENN.EDU
Tue Jun 20 12:27:54 UTC 2006

Ed Keer <edkeer at YAHOO.COM> asks about

  1. ??:  This pistol is as long as I'm tall.
  2. OK:  This pistol is as long as I am tall.

in puzzling over his judgement on

  3. I'm gonna buy me a pistol just as long as I'm tall.

from the Everly Brother's version of 'T for Texas'.


#2 is unproblematically good. I also find #1 odd, and I'm sure it's the
contraction... or rather, the contrast between the contracted second clause
and the uncontracted first. How about these?:

  4. This pistol's as long as I'm tall.


  5. He's as wide as I'm tall.

I find that I want to give the parts (of at least #5) parallel stress

  5'. _He's_ as *wide* as _I'm_ *tall*. (Ad-hocking *x* to mean high tone
and stress and _x_ to mean secondary ditto, rhythmically with even spacing
of the stresses and extending "I'm" to the duration of "He's as".)

Given that, I'm OK with #5, and a little less sure about #4 (but better on
#4 than #1).

I don't find #3 as awkward as #1. Some possible reasons:
 a. There's no verb in the first part, contracted or uncontracted, for the
"I'm" to clash or harmonize with.
 b. I hear it in rhythm, even though I don't know the song, and the
contraction works well with the rhythm.

m a m

The American Dialect Society -

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