"Look less-powerful weapons"

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Sun Jun 3 21:31:19 UTC 2012

On Jun 3, 2012, at 1:08 PM, Dan Goncharoff wrote:
> Opening sentence in a WSJ article:
> "Take the nuclear option off the table, and some patents look less-powerful
> weapons."
> I have never noticed this construction [N-look-N without a preposition or
> some form of to be] before in an edited publication.

_look_ 'look to be' takes a predicative AdjP in English dialects generally.  OED2 lists it as taking predicatives in general -- including NP ("he looks a fool") and PP ("he looked to be in great anxiety") -- though in fact these last two possibilities are usually associated with BrE rather than AmE.

perhaps the construction with NP and PP is spreading to AmE, or perhaps the WSJ writer has some BrE influence in their speech.


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

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