"long from" for "far from"

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Mon Dec 1 17:36:44 UTC 2008

On Nov 30, 2008, at 1:01 PM, Larry Horn wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: "long from" for "far from"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 2:39 PM -0600 11/30/08, Gerald Cohen wrote:
>> "long from" seems to be a shortening of "a long way from" (as in
>> "it's a
>> long way from being over").  And this shortening may have originally
>> occurred under the influence of blending:
>> "it's far from over" + "it's a long way from being over.'
>> G. Cohen
> Perhaps "long way to go" is a factor as well, given that it fits the
> "long from" examples that work and not the ones that Arnold indicates
> are unattested.

i was about to suggest "a long way from" as a contributor to this
usage (and perhaps "a long way to go" as well), and i think there's
something right about that idea, but there's still something to
explain: these "long way" expressions are usable for both spatial and
(sometimes) temporal extent (and for metaphorical uses based on the
spatial sense), but as Alison Murie has noted, "long from" is
specifically temporal.  this shows up very clearly in questions of the
form "how long from here to X"; if you google on this expression,
almost all the hits are about distance in time rather than space, as

   How long from here to there? Find out the time it takes to travel
by Metro Rail from any metro stop to another.

when spatial distance is clearly intended, "long from" is odd indeed:
   ?? Chicago is long from San Francisco.  [ok with "far"]
   ?? How long is your house from your office?  [ok with "far"]'
     (cf.: How long is this project from being finished?
       'How much time until this project is finished?')

so it seems that "long from" is not a simple variant of "far from",
but is 'far from' in time -- another case of the "Y is X plus
something" phenomenon i've been looking at for some time.

another difference: although "long from" is compatible with the
interrogative degree modifier "how", other degree modifiers don't seem
to work: "very far from over" is fine, but "very long from over" gets
no relevant hits.


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