"all but" = all of; a mere"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Mar 6 00:34:47 UTC 2008

At 6:40 PM -0300 3/5/08, David A. Daniel wrote:
>Why should we be exercised about a usage of "all but" (which should,
>apparently, have been "all of") by someone who follows it with "three days
>to red the book" (yes, original says "red", not "read"). So, guy writes "red
>the book," we think it's a typo; guy writes "all but," it is a linguistic
>event. Balderdash. Let us be a little more circumspect and a little less
>alarmist about what constitutes potential linguistic evolution vs. what
>constitutes a blunder.

I don't see "all but three days" here as a blunder on the level of
"red" for "read" (the latter of which is only a typo if the writer
otherwise consistently spells the past tense of "read" as "read").
(Note also "with its level diffculty".)  If "all but" is, as I
suspect, neither a typo nor a malapropism, it may be a blend of "all
of" with "but" itself, which wouldn't be out of place (although it
might be a mite old-fashioned) in the given context.


>-----Original Message-----
>From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
>Jonathan Lighter
>Sent: Wednesday, March 05, 2008 4:59 PM
>Subject: "all but" = all of; a mere"
>Have seen this before in undergrad writing; don't know just when:
>   2006 Amazon.com Customer Review
>[http://www.amazon.com/review/product/0613279085?showViewpoints=1]: At the
>age of 30(6 years ago) i bought a copy of the book AND the cliffs notes to
>help me through the difficult dialogue. i found this to be a page turner. it
>took me all but three days to red the book-even with its level diffculty.
>   JL
>Never miss a thing.   Make Yahoo your homepage.
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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