Idiolect or more widespread?

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Tue May 30 20:58:03 UTC 2006

On May 30, 2006, at 12:53 PM, Ben Zimmer wrote:

> ... An addendum: none of these premodifiers can use "of" when
> combining
> with "more", "less", or "fewer":
> a dozen more/less/fewer
> a lot more/less/fewer
> a couple more/less/fewer

the first two are no surprises: "a dozen" takes "of" only with Full
Noun Expressions, and "a lot" takes "of" (then, obligatorily) only
with Noun Expressions, of any type (so, not when it's functioning as
a degree adverbial, as in this case, or as a VP adverbial, or occurs
without its head).  the third case is the interesting one.  (though
it's not really so surprising, since "couple" is combining with a
determiner, not any sort of nominal.)

> Richard Fontana claimed on alt.usage.english that "a couple more" is
> the *only* context where a speaker from the New York metropolitan
> region would use "a couple" without "of". MWDEU also notes this
> exception to the supposed "couple of" rule.

fanatic sticklers insist, of course, that "a couple more chickens" is
nevertheless unacceptable; you're supposed to say "a few more
chickens" or "two more chickens", depending on how much exactitude
you intend.  sigh.


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