[Ads-l] "a coupla three"

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Wed Dec 16 23:25:16 UTC 2015

For about the past 75 years, I've *assumed* this spelling to be the
eye-phonetics of "a couple of three."  This has never made much sense to
me. But, what are you going to do? It is what it is.

Then,  a couple of three days ago, I came across the phrase spelled out as
"a couple _or_ three"! Why, that's nothing but a clear variant of "_two_ or
three"! How can it be that this has never occurred to me?


Googling "a couple of three" yielded a *very* raw 65,400,000 hits,
including strings like, "a couple of three-legged stools" et sim., whereas
there were only 208,000 hits for "a couple or three." But *all* of them
were relevant. How could they not be?

So, I Googled "a couple of three things" against "a couple or three
things." The yield was 17,600 hits for _of_ vs. 17,700 for _or_.

Historically, no less a figure than George Washington used "a couple or
three" in 1777. OTOH, the oldest relevant example of "a couple or three"
easily found by Google dates from only 1987, on Page ii of the work,
Syntactic Blends in English Parole, by George Leonard Cohen. [Somehow, the
author's name seems to strike a familiar note. ;-)]
All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Mark Twain

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

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