Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Wed Jan 30 21:53:17 UTC 2008

Not in HDAS either. And why? Because as of 1994 it was considerably less common than one might think.

  Even today, I find fewer than 50 RG's for "classless  son-of-a-bitch" (note hyphens to elicit solid, hyphenated, and hyphenless forms) and fewer than 1000 for "classless asshole."  Four for "classless motherfucker."

  None of these constructions shows up even once in Google Books.  Contrast a *quarter of a million* hits for "classy lady" alone.

  So Bill's usage is easily understandable, and has been for over a century. It just seems not to have occurred to people to use it very often.


Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU> wrote:
  ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Laurence Horn
Subject: Re: Classless

At 3:16 PM -0500 1/30/08, Jesse Sheidlower wrote:
>On Wed, Jan 30, 2008 at 07:49:31PM -0000, Michael Quinion wrote:
>> In Bill Mullins's note, he used the word "classless". To me, perhaps from
>> a surfeit of British preoccupations with class, that means a person who
>> does not belong to any particular social class. He's obviously using to
>> mean a person who lacks class. So far as I know, this won't work in
>> British English, but is it a common US form?
>Yes, quite.

I agree. But curiously, AHD4 doesn't seem to have registered this:

1. Lacking social or economic distinctions of class: a classless society.
2. Belonging to no particular social or economic class.

Nor does the OED, although somehow their lacuna is more explicable
for the reason Michael gives. Both entries should be adjusted
accordingly, of course. To be sure, *classless* is compositional,
given the relevant (count noun) sense of *class* that is claimed to
be lacking. This sense of the noun is included in the OED s.v. CLASS,

slang or colloq. Distinction, high quality;
*no class*: of no worth; of low quality, inferior.

but not in the AHD, whose senses include none that could make sense
of "You got a lot of class".


>My favorite such use is in the Sopranos episode
>"Commendatori", when they're in Naples being served this
>absolutely incredible meal, and Paulie asks the Italians for
>some "gravy--you know, red sauce," and one Italian says to the
>other something that's subtitled, "And you thought the
>_Germans_ were classless pieces of shit."
>Jesse Sheidlower

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