"many a" -- singular or plural? Or just awkward?

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Sat Nov 15 00:31:19 UTC 2008

On Nov 14, 2008, at 12:03 PM, Joel S. Berson wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject:      Re: "many a" -- singular or plural? Or just awkward?
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 11/14/2008 12:13 PM, Arnold Zwicky wrote:
>>  Chicago is many miles from here.
>>    vs. ?Chicago is many a mile from here.
> I had had the same feeling as Ann Burlingham; where she used
> "metaphorical" I was thinking "poetic".  And to me, in the above
> "many a mile" hints weariness in the journey, whereas "many miles"
> has no poetry.

i agree about the poetic/literary character of "many a" -- but there's
also a semantic difference between "many a" and plain "many", which i
don't think follows from their stylistic properties.

also: i'm not putting a question mark on all occurrences of "many a
mile", only on certain ones.  there are a lot of details to be
investigated here.  i wasn't offering an analysis, only trying to open
up some discussion of the data.


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list