"pluperfect hell" -- PS

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Apr 16 14:31:45 UTC 2009

At 7:20 AM -0700 4/16/09, Arnold Zwicky wrote:
>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
At least as a metaphorical transfer (cf. the "plus-que-parfait" in
French) from the tense/aspect system it makes more sense than using
"penultimate" as a superlative.


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