Obama's elliptical "than"

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Sat May 3 23:02:57 UTC 2008

Barack Obama in Indianapolis, as quoted by Slate's John Dickerson:

"There is no country in which my story is even possible than the
United States of America."

We saw "sooner than later" in a recent thread, with "than" standing
for "rather than" -- here it stands for "other than". OED's got this
usage but marks it as obsolete/archaic:

_than_, conj.
3 c. = Except, besides, but. (? ellipsis for _other than_, _else
than_, _otherwise than_.) Obs. or arch.
1375 BARBOUR Bruce I. 501 Thar is nothir man na page,..than thai sall
be Fayn to mak thaim-selwyn fre. 1585 T. WASHINGTON tr. Nicholay's
Voy. III. iii. 74b, There is almost nothing left then a shadow therof.
1647 W. BROWNE Polex. I. v. 123 The service you had done..was such as
kings could not worthily acknowledge, at least, then in giving up
their crownes. 1857 RUSKIN Pol. Econ. Art 28 There is nothing left for
him than the blood that comes..up to the horsebridles.

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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