+of EDM on the march

Jon Lighter on ADS-L on the 18th:

OK, we all know about the intrusive “of a” in “It isn’t that big of a deal.”

But in an ad for Kathy Griffin’s forthcoming TV special, she seems to say clearly, “I just heard a huge of a rumor!”

Of course, maybe it’s just a weird “huge,” n., and not a super-weird intrusive “of a.”

Not, I think, a nouning of huge, but rather a new (to me) variant of +of EDM: “exceptional / extraordinary degree marking / modification” with of.

Background fact 1, on EDM vs. ODM (“ordinary degree marking / modification”), from this posting:

Ordinarily a degree modifier, like very, combines with an Adj head, like happy, to yield an expression with pretty much the distribution of the Adj on its own: you can think of very happy as an “expansion” of happy. This is ODM.

But a few degree modifiers work differently: they combine with a nominal expression with the indefinite article a(n), to yield a full NP: too/how big a dog. The result is a contrast between ODM a very big dog and EDM too big a dog.

Some degree modifiers (Deg) are used in ODM — very, pretty, really, extraordinarily, for instance — while others are used in EDM — too, how, so, as, and that, for instance. (There’s a fair amount of literature on the details.)

Background fact 2, on –of vs. +of EDM. This is the pattern for EDM in conservative standard English, call it –of EDM, but there’s a competing construction with the preposition of marking the a + N constituent: +of EDM, as in too big of a dog. There’s an extensive literature on the history and the stylistic and sociolinguistic characteristics of +of EDM (see remarks here).

(For several decades +of EDM — under the name “intrusive / excrescent / inserted of” — has been high on the list of people’s pet peeves in English usage. Note that the “intrusion” or “insertion” of of here was a historical event that happened in the speech of a few speakers more than 50 ago; it’s not a description of what happens when people speak now. No one is aiming for –of EDM and then inexplicably throwing in an of; they’re aiming for +of EDM, and getting it.)

EDM extensions. Over the years all sorts of extensions of EDM have been reported to me:

of EDM with PL rather than SG head N: too big a mortgages

+of EDM with head Ns other than Count SGs: (PL) too small of rooms, too harsh of a interrogation techniques; (Mass) too big of paper; (pronoun one) a major complication, but not so vast of one as to be impossible to arrange

EDM with comparative ADJ: (-of) a lot bigger a yard than I expected, (+of)  much bigger of a distance than between your eyes [here the comparative morphology serves to license EDM in the same way that the degree modifier more does]

EDM with ordinary degree modifiers: not really bad (of) a kid [usually under negation]

EDM syntax with no degree modifier: not big (of) a deal [with not serving to license EDM syntax]

as hell of a: Well, sure I made it but ya know it was as hell of a trip (John Prine’s “Flashback Blues”) [other examples as well; apparently, reanalysis of a hell of as involving an Adj hell]

And now a Adj of a N, in a huge of a rumor. More examples with huge:

There are load of free software that are not open source. And in the OpenBSD world, that makes a huge of a difference. (link)

… even if they are noobs its impossible for me to beat a lvl 60 … plus most of them are small spenders which makes a huge of a difference… (link)

His horses were as big as his extra long sword, a huge of a blade forged in Solingen of Damascus steel. (link)

On any search engine Clenbuterol gets about 1 million results, while other similar products only get 
somewhere near 15,000 – just to have an idea – it’s a huge of a difference. (link)

Four possible contributions (not mutually exclusive):

(1) +of EDM syntax with not as a licensor, in particular not huge / big of a N (see above). There are huge numbers for not a big of a deal — with the N deal specifically — which looks like a combination of the idiom (not) a big deal and not big of a deal; this could then be extended by eliminating the restriction to negative contexts, widening the range of Adjs involved (at least from big to the semantically similar huge), and widening the range of head Ns involved.

(2) Reinterpretation of as as a in +of EDM: as huge / big of a N > a huge / big of a N. Some possible xamples with huge:

Loved this podcast. I don’t entirely agree with you on the whole DC reboot. While I doubt it’ll be a huge of a success as they’re thinking, I believe the “fanboys” will still lap up the collectable #1 issues and get on the new series. (link)

I don’t think this makes a huge of a dent on battery as people think. (link)

I’m a HUGE fan… well, a huge of a fan I can be with a small part-time job (link)

First of all, stacking. It had never been a huge of a problem as this guy’s (link)

(3) Reinterpretation of (totally standard) partitive determiner a bit of as a big ofa bit of a N > a big of a N. Some possible examples:

*Starsglittermagic* has had a big of a change! (link)

The Pistons caught a big of a break against the Celtics, as Boston lost Kevin Garnett in the first quarter with a leg injury (link)

Going home to watch it there
/ It gave my family a big of a scare/ I couldn’t believe my eyes (link)

(4) (suggested by Jon Lighter) Fusion of Adj of a (especially in not that big / huge of a deal) into a new Adj — big of a > bigguva, huge of a > hugeuva — which then has ordinary Adj syntax (a Adj N). The new Adjs are still spelled as word sequences (just as the fusion of all and right into all right ‘ok’ is still spelled, in the standard orthography at any rate, as two words).

However a huge / big of a N arose, it seems to be a huge of a phenomenon these days.

One Response to “+of EDM on the march”

  1. Those Sophisticated of Missiles « Literal-Minded Says:

    […] string, as in *a too big deal, but between the adjective and the noun: too big a deal. Arnold Zwicky has coined the term exceptional degree marking (EDM) for these structures. The other adverbs that work in EDM constructions are so, as, and […]

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