Fun with EDM

Over the past three months, contributors to ADS-L have been looking at a series of English examples involving of in English modifier constructions, in what I’ve called EDM (Exceptional Degree Modification) and closely related constructions. (ODM — Ordinary Degree Modification — in a very big dog, EDM in [-of]  how big a dog and [+ofhow big of a dog.) Most of the examples are ones I’ve discussed in ADS-L or Language Log postings over the years and then posted about on this blog, but this history seems to have vanished from the group’s memory, so we get fresh reports of old phenomena, sigh. I have now assembled a Page on this blog with an inventory of some postings on EDM and related phenomena, along with quotes from and comments on the postings. Unfortunately, people can’t consult this resource if they don’t know about it. I don’t know any way to fix that, but I’m not going to repeat discussions of EDM from my publications and postings over the past 20 years. Instead, I’ll make brief references to this material, reminders that this stuff is out there (and easily accessible).

Now, from ADS-L on 11/5/15, by Jonathan Lighter, under the heading “Re: intrusive “of” intrudes further”:

How about this, attributed to a presidential candidate whose name you would recognize in a twinkling?

“And various of scientists have said, ‘well, you know there were alien beings that came down and they have special knowledge and that’s how.’ You know, it doesn’t require an alien being when God is with you.”

(I mean, how about the “of”?)

People have been complaining about the of in various of for over a century, in part because it’s been very common, including in the writing of polished writers. Briefly, various of is what you get if you treat various as a pronominal (taking a partitive complement) rather than an adjective (combining directly with a nominal head). Discussion in my “various of” posting of 9/12/09.

Gerald Cohen followed up on Lighter’s posting:

The “of” in “various of scientists” seems explainable as a blend: various scientists” + “a number of scientists” (and perhaps “a lot of scientists”).

It is remotely possible that this is the way the very first various of occurrences came into being, back in the 19th century, but for a very long time this pronominal construction has coexisted with the adjectival construction (various scientists) as just one of the phenomena of English syntax.

On to Neal Whtman, again on 11/5/15:

And this morning, from my 15yo son: “It just wasn’t very good of an apple.”

Here I refer you to my 9/20/11 posting “+of EDM on the march”, with a fairly long ist of (non-standard) extensions of EDM, including EDM with ordinary degree modifiers, like very (usually under negation, as here).

Then from Neal on 12/7/15::

From “What if Will Smith had played Neo in The Matrix?”, Entertainment Weekly, #1393, 12/11/15, 6. 41:

In a recent interview with Wired, Smith admitted he would have “totally messed up The Matrix” had he accepted, saying, “I wasn’t SMART ENOUGH OF AN ACTOR to let the movie be, whereas Keanu was.” (emphasis added)

On the one hand, this is an “of” where we haven’t seen it before: it’s not with “too,” “how,” “as/so,” or “this/that” (or even “very,” looking at my earlier example). You’d just expect prenominal “a smart enough actor”. On the other hand, we do have the standard “enough OF a [NOUN] to [VERB],” which is so very close to what Will Smith said. Maybe we have a production error, blending “enough of an actor” with “a smart enough actor”. [and possibly too smart an actor (to VP)]

This one looks new to me: Adj + enough with +of EDM.

[Added on 1/24: Wilson Gray has now protested on ADS-L that Adj + enough with +of EDM has been around for a long time and (though perhaps non-standard) is used by tons of people all the time. I don’t know the history, but I see that Wilson is right on current usage: a search on

{ big enough of a * to }

pulls up huge numbers of examples.]

Finally, Neal again, on 12/29/15, still under the heading  “Re: intrusive “of” intrudes further”:

And now, from my other, 17y.o., son: [Incandescent light] is a lot warmer OF a light [than fluorescent].

Also covered in my “+of EDM on the march” posting: (+of) EDM with a comparative Adj (itself modified by the degree element a lot in this case). Neal continues:

This sentence also brings in another syntactic peculiarity, i.e. how something that means “A light that is A lot warmer” (2 indefinite articles) is phrased with just one indefinite article, i.e. not “*an a lot warmer (of) a light.”

Here the topic is article + article, which is usually simplified to just one article, to satisfy the Well-Formedness (WF) requirement (note Neal’s asterisk on an a lot); but there are a fair number of examples that resolve the conflict between WF and Faith (Faithfulness) in favor of Faith, including many with an a lot + comparative. Back in 2007 I posted a good bit in ADS-L on article + article cases; a very brief summary can be found here.

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