a worse of a
Posted: 08 March 2013 11:08 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Just heard this on an ad for non-fiction crime-related TV series…

“Any man who uses a weapon against a woman is a worse of a coward.”

I’ve heard the phrase “a worse of” before (not IRL but on TV), but always as a comparison. e.g. “He is a worse of a coward than you” meaning he is a worse coward than you.

In the context of what the speaker was saying, in this case, no comparison was being made. Basically she meant “is the worst coward”, I suppose.

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Posted: 09 March 2013 04:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I can’t help but think that there is more to the context for the comparison to hang on than has been quoted here.  Still, the expression sounds clunky, like the writer was being paid by the word.

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Posted: 09 March 2013 04:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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The OED records a few dialectal instances of worse of, one of them marked Scottish, but they’re not quite the same as this example.

The one marked as Scottish substitutes worse of for the more common worse for:

1885 R. L. Stevenson Prince Otto iii. ii. 268 To tell you the open truth, your Highness, I was the worse of drink.

Another substitution for worse for. The phrase worse for wear is probably the common usage in this sense:

1824 in Spirit of Public Jrnls. (1825) 213 His face [...] rather the worse of the dirt by which it was encased.

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Posted: 09 March 2013 05:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Still, the expression sounds clunky, like the writer was being paid by the word.

This was by a woman being interviewed about a crime of which her friend was a victim. There was, I think, no writer.

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Posted: 09 March 2013 03:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Google ngrams doesn’t find any instances of this phrase.  I’d guess it was just a verbal flub by the speaker.

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Posted: 09 March 2013 07:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I don’t know anything about ngrams, but a simple search brings up some 400000 hits, and most of them appear to be of the comparative type. (Actually the first hit is this thread: the Googleforce is strong in this forum.)

The first few examples:
Do you get a worse of a punishment for killing or hurting a pregnant women?  http://au.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20120927161824AARcKDQ
Has anyone seen a worse of a score before?? https://twitter.com/GreenyCJ/statuses/297461034053140480
There’s no one a worse of a leader than somebody who knows everything and has little experience. http://louisianaconservative.com/dont-have-a-cao-man-defeat-the-landrieus-instead
phantasytour.com/bands/1/topics/3167137/posts?mode=print this couldnt happen to a worse of a school the majority of NFL players that come out of penn state are busts anyway

And so on. As I say, I’m familiar with the general form “a worse of a”, and what struck me as novel about the use in this interview is that it was used in a non-comparative sense.

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Posted: 09 March 2013 08:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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It looks to me that the “of a” of the “a worse of a” is the crux.

Google ngrams offers many hits for “a worse of” and also “worse of a” but, as Faldage pointed out above, nothing for “a worse of a”.

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Posted: 09 March 2013 09:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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So what is Google ngrams, and why does it exclude so many things that Google finds?

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Posted: 10 March 2013 03:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Google ngrams graphs the results of searches of Google Books, but only Google Books. So it picks up only professionally published material and excludes the web, Twitter, etc.

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Posted: 10 March 2013 04:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Then the disparity does not surprise me:  I would certainly take “a worse of a” to be an informal usage and one that would be widely considered unacceptable.

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Posted: 10 March 2013 05:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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http://books.google.com/ngrams/

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