[Ads-l] "great of guy"

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jan 13 01:43:42 EST 2022

For reference, the Zwickyan term for DEG-ADJ-of is "+of EDM," where EDM
stands for "exceptional degree marking." Arnold has a page on his site with
links to relevant posts.


I'm not seeing any discussion of the anarthrous version that Larry
encountered. In his post on "Innovative EDM," Arnold itemizes these

(0) Deg Adj a I (that handsome a guy)
(1) Deg Adj PL (that handsome guys)
(2) Deg Adj a PL (that handsome a guys)
(0') Deg Adj of a I (that handsome of a guy)
(1') Deg Adj of PL (that handsome of guys)
(2') Deg Adj of a PL (that handsome of a guys)

...but the paradigm is lacking "that handsome of guy." (No Google hits for
that particular phrase, though there's a smattering for "that great of
guy," "that nice of guy," etc. Still feels like a typo/speecho to me
without the "a.")


On Wed, Jan 12, 2022 at 11:23 PM Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu>

> OK, I know Arnold has discussed the "DEG ADJ of a N" construction in
> various guises (e.g. "not that unusual of a construction"). Arnold has
> names for the different species of this genus, but I can't remember
> where--Arnold will know, and Ben Z probably will too. For a while, a few
> decades ago, one would readily find "how good of an X" or "not that great
> of a Y", but it would be odd to see this generalized to other adjectives.
> Not so odd anymore, as Arnold's examples and others cited by list members
> show. But still this one strikes me as extremely peculiar. From one of the
> wedding announcements in Sunday's NYT:
> In September 2018, Ms. Kamat boarded a plane for Mississippi and spent a
> weekend with Mr. Rao on his university’s campus in Oxford. She was curious
> to meet the friends he had often talked about, which made Mr. Rao “very,
> very nervous,” he said.
> But once she arrived and heard from his friends about *what a great of guy*
> he was, Mr. Rao’s nerves relaxed.
> https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/07/style/vaibhavi-kamat-jaideep-rao-wedding.html
> Note that unlike many instances of the adjectival + of sequence, this one
> has no indefinite article following, although I'm not sure "what a great of
> a guy" would sound that much more natural to me. Maybe a little. And of
> course "how great of a guy" is impeccable, but that's not the version we
> have here.
> Here's another hit. with "how" as the degree modifier:
> Ryan told us *how great of guy* Lee was before we ever met him, but we
> really had no idea.  Lee and his wife, Kathy, took southern hospitality to
> a whole new level.
> https://m.bassmaster.com/blog/lee-richardson-fisher-fishers
> And similarly, this from a story about a 19-year-old baseball player who
> died in a car accident:
> "Everyone we’ve talked to just talked about *how great of guy *he was, and
> how he made them feel seen and heard, and I think that’s so important.”
> Has anyone here encountered this particular variant of DEG-ADJ-of? Or have
> I just been sleeping under a rock, old of guy that I am?
> LH

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