"pluperfect hell" -- PS

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Thu Apr 16 14:20:55 UTC 2009

On Apr 15, 2009, at 11:19 AM, Geoff Nunberg wrote:

> I just realized the OED has this from 1889. Seems to be jocular
> vestige of an age when everybody learned the word in school. (But that
> was in another country, and besides, the tense is dead.)

there are two relevant subentries in the OED (draft revision of March

the one you cite above (3, "as a general intensifier", marked as
colloquial), with cites from 1889 through 2000 ("raise pluperfect
Cain", "catch pluperfect hell", "a pluperfect mess", "raise pluperfect

another (2b, "utterly perfect; ideal, faultless", labeled
"hyperbolically"), with cites from 1831 (in "pluperfectly") through
1992 ("the pluperfect guest").

the use in "Why in the pluperfect hell did you do that?" would appear
to be an instance of the general-intensifier sense, rather than
specifically a replacement for "fucking".  note the collocation with


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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list