the spread of adjective-licensed "of"

David A. Daniel dad at POKERWIZ.COM
Mon Jan 21 15:54:19 UTC 2008

Safire's column of Jan 13th last was about the extra "of's" flying around,
inspired it seems by the "retirement" ad.

Both "of recent" and "how big of a" sound completely normal to me. I have
heard both all my life & thought nothing odd about either one. Indeed, I
have always assumed that "how big a" was just a shortened form of the FULL
form with "of." Cf. the "to" in "help him (to)."

I can't believe that actual research (as opposed to the mere reporting of
transient impressions) will reveal anything odd or NEW here. Of course,
since I am merely reporting my own transient impressions, maybe I am dead
wrong. But isn't the burden of proof on those who are made the original
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

-----Original Message-----
From: "STAHLKE, HERBERT F" <hstahlke at BSU.EDU>

Date:         Mon, 21 Jan 2008 00:17:42
Subject:      Re: [ADS-L] the spread of adjective-licensed "of"


I'm copying my reply to you because ADS-L has not be accepting my
postings now for several years, even when I've changed addresses.

I'm wondering if "of recent" isn't along the lines of "of a Monday," the
latter now archaic and/or regional.

The "of a" you illustrate strikes me as related to another @(v) I've
observed.  In clauses like

If he had been there.

What I hear often is "if he'd /@@/ been there."  The lengthened schwa is
almost two syllables in speech.  One of the schwa's is clearly the
reduction of "have," but the other can't be that.  I also get it and
hear it sometimes in the declarative "He'd /@@/ been there if it hadn't
@ rained."  The schwa in this conditional seems to be the same thing as
the first of the schwas in the main clause.  I don't have a description
of this phenomenon, but there is clearly something going on that
reanalyzes both "have" and "of."


---------------------- Information from the mail header
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Laurence Horn
Subject: the spread of adjective-licensed "of"

I'm sure Arnold has a better label for this construction, which we've
discussed here in the past. What struck me today was the proximity
of two occurrences, one in print that suggests the occurrence of the
"adjective-of-a" construction (what some might consider epenthetic
"of") that has moved beyond the colloquial into at least semi-formal
style, as seen in this headline in an Allstate ad on the back cover
of today's NYT Week in Review:

How long of a retirement should you plan for?

Somehow I wouldn't bat my eye at a sportscaster wondering on the air,
"How long of a run was that?", but the occurrence in a newspaper ad
seems a bit odder.

The other intrusive prep. occurs in spoken and indeed sportscasterese
register (from the broadcast of today's AFC championship game on
CBS), but what's interesting is the construction itself, which seems
pretty foreign to me, although obviously interpretable:

The guy who's really putting this team over the top of recent is

Hard to search "of recent" on google for obvious reasons, but I'm
guessing it could be a nonce blend of "recently" + "of late".


The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list