all of the sudden, one at the time, still in the bed

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Sep 6 15:26:25 UTC 2006

At 11:14 AM -0400 9/6/06, RonButters at AOL.COM wrote:
>I suggested earlier that ALL OF THE SUDDEN is a USA Southernism. I thought I
>was collecting these, but the only one I can find in my files is from an
>Associated Press story that ran in THE RALEIGH NEWS AND OBSERVER on August 28,
>2005, quoting the actor Patrick Swayze:
>"All of the sudden I'll be pinched on the rear and jump and turn around and
>I'll see this little blue-haired old lady running back to her group of friends
>going, 'I did it Martha, I did it'."
>Swayze was born in Houston and spent the first 18 years of his life there.
>That is just anecdotal evidence, as is my observation that I first began
>noticing this usage when I moved to North Carolina in 1967 (from
>Iowa) and assumed
>it was a dialect thing, just like ONE AT THE TIME (which I began also to hear
>here in NC in 1967), and the amazing "HE'S STILL IN THE BED" (which my Iowa
>grammar told me that the family had only one bed).
What did your Iowa grammar tell you about "He was punched in the arm"
or "You should look it up in the dictionary" or "Go look in the
mirror" or "Don't scribble on the wall"?  These have been discussed
(sometimes under the rubric of "weak definites") and I think
represent a rather different phenomenon from "one at the time" or
"all of the sudden", which seem entirely foreign to me, partly
because "one at a time" and "all of a sudden" appear to be idiomatic
and entirely non-compositional in terms of the indefinite.  Those
examples are closer to "He kicked a bucket", involving a dialectal or
idiolectal reanalysis of the idiom rather than an extension of
definites under certain semantic and pragmatic conditions.


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