Lost their "head (of)"

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Wed Apr 21 01:29:03 UTC 2010

"... the world's 1.3 billion [head of] cattle ..."

Of course, the loss of _head of_ has been going on for dekkids and may
well be, for all practical purposes, complete. I first heard it in
1972. A student translated a string as

"... [numeral] cattle ..."

When the prof tried to correct this to "... [numeral] _head of_ cattle
...," the student actually laughed, presumably because she had never
heard the construction before and thought that it sounded silly. The
implied claim that no such structure existed was backed up by the
snickers of the other members of the class, with the exception, of
course, of your humble correspondent, who, ten or more years older
than his classmates, had grown up on a diet of horse opera and knew
that, e.g. cattle-rustlers actually rustled "*head* of" and not

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"––a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
–Mark Twain

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

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