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Old 01-12-2008, 01:10 PM   #1
ktinkel
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Default "Of" abuse

William Safire has a good column in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine: On the Migrating of Of.”

His column — a rant, really — talks about some odd uses of “of” in popular (mostly oral) usage.

He touches on the substitution of ”of” for ”have” — a fairly gross abuse, attempting to give a tiny preposition the power of a verb. But the article mainly covers “… the use of of, as in ‘New York is too big of a town for me.’ ”

Safire reassures himself that this is mainly a problem in casual speech, but we see this aberrant usage online with some regularity — and while the web is not print, it isn’t merely oral either.

   
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Old 01-12-2008, 10:10 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by ktinkel View Post
Safire reassures himself that this is mainly a problem in casual speech, but we see this aberrant usage online with some regularity — and while the web is not print, it isn’t merely oral either.
Agreed. I guess it's casual print. LOL. Improper use of 'of' drives me half crazy. The other half is improper use of apostrophes.... As long as you don't get me started on the other things that drive me crazy. Then I will add up to more than 100% crazy.

   
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Old 01-13-2008, 10:57 AM   #3
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Default Apostrophe Protection Society

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Originally Posted by Franca View Post
Agreed. I guess it's casual print. LOL. Improper use of 'of' drives me half crazy. The other half is improper use of apostrophes.... As long as you don't get me started on the other things that drive me crazy. Then I will add up to more than 100% crazy.
We have mentioned it before, but maybe we should mention it again.

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Old 01-13-2008, 01:04 PM   #4
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Dave:
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maybe we should mention it again
It would be more to the point to campaign for the abolition of the possessive apostrophe.

   
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Old 01-13-2008, 04:55 PM   #5
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Improper use of 'of' drives me half crazy. The other half is improper use of apostrophes....
This past week I've had occasion to exchange email with a number of newspaper industry folk (beyond those of the papers I work for). One typed "in the [date] addition of our paper" which should have been edition. Another typed Tuesday's and Wednesday's, but she meant them to be plural, not possessive.

<sigh>

   
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Old 01-13-2008, 01:36 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by ktinkel View Post
He touches on the substitution of ”of” for ”have” — a fairly gross abuse, attempting to give a tiny preposition the power of a verb.
That's been very common here for as long as I can remember. It seems to be used by people who use the language orally for the most part.

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Originally Posted by ktinkel View Post
But the article mainly covers “… the use of of, as in ‘New York is too big of a town for me.’ ”
I really hope I'm right in saying this is a purely US usage, because it grates badly!

And of course, the people he is writing for probably won't use that form anyway.

   
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Old 01-13-2008, 05:40 AM   #7
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"Get up off of that thing; and dance till you feel better."
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Old 01-13-2008, 11:59 AM   #8
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"Get up off of that thing; and dance till you feel better."
Yeah, we do have that...

   
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Old 01-15-2008, 10:13 AM   #9
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Default Let's look at some statistics

Quote:
Originally Posted by annc View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by ktinkel
He touches on the substitution of ”of” for ”have” — a fairly gross abuse, attempting to give a tiny preposition the power of a verb.
That's been very common here for as long as I can remember. It seems to be used by people who use the language orally for the most part.
Apart from the fact that no one is "attempting to give a tiny preposition the power of a verb" (the "of" in this construct is a verb, just spelled differently than "'ve" because of the way it sounds like when people pronounce it), what is interesting is that apparently it doesn't occur only in the US and England (my own observations) but in Australia as well.

So either it's a very old (spoken) form that "migrated" to the new world as well as to Australia, or the mechanism for this pronunciation to occur is so common that it can emerge independently in different places.

Not knowing which has precedence (did "have" pronounced as "of" occur already before the new world was rediscovered?) I can't say what the time line is. But the mechanism itself suggests a "vowel correspondence" (could of, would of, must of...), something found in other languages (the Turkic family of languages, for instance, where it's so strong it completely determines how words are forms: a word cannot exist that doesn't have vowel correspondence unless it's a foreign loan word).

If "vowel correspondence" is at work here (as I strongly suspect) and is making its way into "written" language because of the Internet, then we would have a stronger proportion of "could of/could have", "would of/would have" and "must of/must have" than of "may of/may have" or "might of/might have". Let's see what "a famous search engine" has to say about that... (it won't be conclusive, but it might be suggestive ).

Here are my results:
Code:
form                count      perc  prop of/'ve
could of        3,380,000      2.38
could've        8,900,000      6.27     2.63
could have    142,000,000    100

would of        5,520,000      1.92
would've       14,700,000      5.10     2.66
would have    288,000,000    100 

must of         1,900,000      1.07
must've         3,820,000      2.16     2.01
must have     177,000,000    100

may of *)       3,750,000      1.28
may've            180,000      0.06     0.05
may have      294,000,000    100

might of *)     2,040,070      1.91
might've        1,950,000      1.82     0.96
might have    107,000,000    100
*) In testing this little hypothesis, I noted that 1) "may of" could also refer to a person's last name "May" or the name of the month "May" and 2) "might of" could also refer to the noun might; in an attempt to "correct" so I also searched for "the might of" and "a might of", and all forms with "of course" instead of just "of" and subtracted the numbers found from that found searching for "may of" resp. "might of". That, of course, is just an approximation since it still leaves some forms with the proper name or noun that could only be excluded by actually inspecting the documents found.

The first column of numbers is just the numbers found (somewhat "corrected" as described above); the second column takes the form with "have" as 100% and derives the percentage of the corresponding forms. Clearly, the "written language" form with "have" written full out is the most dominant form on the Internet. The final column gives the proportion of the "of" and the "'ve" form.

The forms with "may" and "might" obviously cannot be isolated sufficiently (not in a quickie exercise like this), so unfortunately this doesn't prove or disprove my hypothesis. What we can see however, is that the "'ve" form is proportionally rarer for "may" and "might" (and rarest for "may", maybe because it doesn't end in a consonant!) - so a shift towards a "of" form would be rarer still. But what I found surprising is the highly consistent proportions between the (other) "of" and "'ve" forms. My mind tells me there is a pattern here. And, considering "of" is a (considered "incorrect") variant spelling of "'ve", I was really surprised by how often it's actually being used in comparison!

   
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Last edited by iamback; 01-15-2008 at 10:32 AM.
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Old 01-13-2008, 11:35 AM   #10
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It's just (language) evolution in action. Living languages change and the processes by which that happens is far more interesting than irritations of people who wish it would remain the same.

Who, now, is irritated by the double plural form of "children"? (We have the same double plural in Dutch, btw.)

   
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