"Horrible" as a noun?

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Wed Jan 26 23:32:12 UTC 2011

A NYC newspaper of 1836 used "terrible" as a count noun in a column heading.

Accidents, freshets, crimes, casualties and other horrors. [headline; brief snippets of out-of-town news]
NY Times, April 29, 1836, p. 2, col. 2;
Condensed account of horrors. [the same]  NY Times, May 23, 1836, p. 2, col. 3;
List of Terribles. [bad news from out-of-town] NY Times, June 11, 1836, p. 2, col. 4

(This is not the present-day NYTimes, or ancestral to it.)

These are the only items I noted, but I think it was the papers regular way of heading the bad news from out-of-town, so "horribles" might well have been used, too.


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Baker, John" <JMB at STRADLEY.COM>
Date: Tuesday, January 25, 2011 9:10 pm
Subject: Re: "Horrible" as a noun?

>         "Parade of horribles," a listing of the negative effects to be
> expected from a legal or policy position that one opposes, is a
> standard term among lawyers.  Ben Zimmer's Language Log posting
> mentions its use in 2002, but it was frequently used by my law
> professors in the early 1980s, and the example below from 1982 is
> clearly the same thing.  Note that you can never have just one
> horrible of this type, although you can have one horrible after another.
> John Baker
> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On
> Behalf Of Jocelyn Limpert
> Sent: Tuesday, January 25, 2011 7:39 PM
> Subject: "Horrible" as a noun?
> I've been informed that "horrible" is being used as a noun in a soon-to-be
> published book, a possible best seller.
> Does anyone know who coined this usage and if it is now in fairly common
> usage?  Had anyone heard it much?
> I found the following at diffen.com
> *horrible as a Noun* The use of "horrible" as a noun is fairly rare. A
> person wearing a funny or gross costume in a parade of
> horribles<is called
> *a horrible*.
> Read more: Horrible vs Horrific - Difference and Comparison |
> Diffen<
> http://www.diffen.com/difference/Horrible_vs_Horrific#ixzz1C65P7gQK
> I found the following in Wikipedia:
> Noun
> *horrible* (*plural* *horribles<
> *)
>    1. A thing that causes horror <; a
>    terrifying < thing, particularly
>    a prospective bad consequence asserted as likely to result from an
> act.
>     [quotations ▲]
>       - *1851*, Herman Melville, *Moby Dick* *Here's a carcase. I know
> not
>       all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I'll go to it
> laughing. Such
>       a waggish leering as lurks in all your horribles!*
>       - *1982*, United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, *The
>       Genocide Convention: Hearing Before the Committee on Foreign Relations,
>       United States Senate* *A lot of the possible horribles conjured
> up by
>       the people objecting to this convention ignore the plain
> language of this
>       treaty.*
>       - *1991*, Alastair Scott, *Tracks Across Alaska: A Dog Sled
> Journey* *The
>       pot had previously simmered skate wings, cods' heads, whales,
> pigs' hearts
>       and a long litany of other horribles.*
>       - *2000*, John Dean, CNN
> interview<,
>       January 21, 2000: *I'm trying to convince him that the criminal
>       behavior that's going on at the White House has to end. And I
> give him one
>       horrible after the next. I just keep raising them. He sort of swats
>       them away.*
>       - *2001*, Neil K. Komesar, *Law's Limits: The Rule of Law and the
>       Supply and Demand of Rights* *Many scholars have demonstrated these
>       horribles and contemplated significant limitations on class actions.*
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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