All the faster I can go/ All the farther I can go/ etc
Posted: 31 October 2011 08:09 AM   [ Ignore ]
Rank
Total Posts:  3
Joined  2011-10-30

My grandmother will sometimes say things like “That’s all the faster I can go” or “That’s all the farther I can go.” I was wondering about this nonstandard construction.  My grandmother’s native tongue is a Low German dialect (Plautdietsch), but she has been speaking English since she started school.  She grew up in Kansas, but has spent most of her life in Indiana.  So, can anyone tell me if this is just a nonstandard English phrase that I’ve overlooked when other people say it or is it perhaps influenced by German grammar?  She still uses some Plautdietsch words for things, but I’m wondering if her grammar is also influenced by her native tongue.  Thanks!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 31 October 2011 09:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  650
Joined  2011-04-10

It is a common saying by the “Pennsylvania Dutch” “The hurried-er I go, the behind-er I get” Goes along with hex signs.  Never heard it in Kansas.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 31 October 2011 09:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Rank
Total Posts:  3
Joined  2011-10-30

That would make sense.  My grandma is Mennonite too, though her people made a detour to Russia before emmigrating to America.  I think the dialect she speaks is somewhat different from Pennsylvania Dutch, but I imagine they’re related.

Anybody know of any non-Mennonite usage of this saying?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 31 October 2011 09:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2835
Joined  2007-01-31

The OED doesn’t give much space to this, but it appears to me (at first look) to fit right in with this usage:

With adv. the: By that amount, to that extent, just so much.
a1616 Shakespeare As you like It (1623) i. ii. 92 All the better: we shal be the more Marketable.
1879 Tennyson Lover’s T. 82 He was all the more resolv’d to go.

In the OP there is a slight difference in sense that is one can probably attribute entirely to the rest of the construction: “that I can go”, so that the overall meaning is “as fast or far as we can go”.  Overall, I think this is an organic development of the usage illustrated in the Shakespeare and Tennyson quotes, and one needn’t invoke German immigrants to explain it. I don’t recall any parallel construction in German that could have been calqued to form this, though my German is pretty limited so I wouldn’t rule out its existence either.  Still, I don’t think that explanation is parsimonious.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 31 October 2011 10:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  429
Joined  2007-02-14

Just guessing, but how about an echo of German (high or low, and Dutch) constructions with “aller-”? This is used to put even more emphasis on a superlative form. Somebody trying to make a literal translation of something like “das allerschnellste das ich fahren kann” (the very fastest I can drive) might turn to a phrasing like in the OP.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 31 October 2011 05:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4740
Joined  2007-01-03

It’s in the Dictionary of American Regional English:

all the foll by an adj or adv usu of positive or compar degree, e.g. far or farther, to form an adj phr of superl degree meaning as far as or the farthest. chiefly Sth, S Midl when the adj is of positive degree; chiefly Inland Nth, N Midl when the adj is comparative.

DARE has cites going back to 1891, all the high and all the higher from Tennessee. And from the maps of citations from the DARE surveys, the usage appears to be insanely common across the Midwest. I’ve never noticed anyone saying it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I notice someone here in Toronto saying it within the week.

Indiana is a North Midland state, so that makes sense. It doesn’t appear to be especially associated with Pennsylvania Dutch or Mennonites.

[ Edited: 31 October 2011 05:23 PM by Dave Wilton ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 31 October 2011 06:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
Rank
Total Posts:  3
Joined  2011-10-30

Thanks for taking the time to check this out for me.  I wonder if I just haven’t noticed other people saying it around here.  Of course, I live in the city and she lives in a more rural area, so maybe it’s a regionalism that’s dying out in the city.  There’s always the issue of age as well.  There are other German-influenced speech patterns in this region ("Do you want to come with?” instead of “Do you want to come with me?” for example), so I was curious.

Profile