[Ads-l] "great of guy"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Jan 13 11:41:55 EST 2022


One hypothesis: it's real (not a typo) but the "of" is a
hypercorrection/reanalysis of "a". So the speakers/writers (and presumed
NYT editor in the case of the wedding piece) are hearing "how great a
guy"/"what a great a guy" and reanalyzing the "a" as a reduced form of
"of", much as (I assume) "should of" arose from a reanalysis of reduced
"should /@/" < "should have".  Still, I'm forced to concede that this story
works better for the "how great of guy" in the last two (Googled) examples
than the "what a great of guy" one.  (And thanks for the links to Arnold's
"+of EDM" analyses!)

LH

On Thu, Jan 13, 2022 at 11:20 AM Jesse Sheidlower <jester at panix.com> wrote:

> I believe this is real, but this sounds completely unnatural to me. I've
> asked a random sample of people in their 20s-40s, and they all said "No
> way, it's wrong."
>
> On Wed, Jan 12, 2022 at 11:22:39PM -0500, Laurence Horn wrote:
> > 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
> >
> > ------------------------------------------------------------
> > The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>

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