The Corner

A Little Language

Lots of mail on Impromptus today, which is about last night’s Republican debate. Most of the mail is about this political point or that. But some of it is about language. Three samples.

A reader writes, “Jay, you use the phrase ‘tad bit’ — ‘a tad bit inhuman.’ Why do you need both ‘tad’ and ‘bit’? Isn’t that redundant?”

I can only plead, “Idiom.” I grew up with it.

The second reader writes, “You refer to ‘an auditoriumful of conservative Republicans.’ Shouldn’t that be ‘auditorium full of’?”

No. “An auditoriumful of” is pronounced one way, “an auditorium full of” a different way. The first pronunciation is what I was after. Consider two other phrases: “a trunkful of photos” and “a trunk full of photos.” You can hear the difference, right?

And the third reader: “You say, ‘Needs coaching bad.’ Shouldn’t that be ‘badly’?”

I will answer more snarkily than I should: Not for a native speaker of English, in these here Ewe-nited States.

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