Constructions like not much of a problem, a slip of a girl, a whale of a ball game, and a doozy of a screwup are part of general usage. In the last three, the construction can be described as âconsisting of determiner + noun (N2) + of + indeï¬nite article + noun (N1)â (Quirk et al. 1986, 1285); it is, moreover, ânot a regular prepositional postmodiï¬cationâ but a âspecial case of prepositional apposition [of] singular count nouns where the of-phrase is subjectiveâ (1284).1 Partly due to the colloquial ï¬avor of such constructions, the univerbative (bound) aspect of the sequence of aâ phonetically and grammaticallyâis occasionally reï¬ected in its being spelled uva, as in helluva (cf. 1285) and its more sanitized variant heckuva. This quasi-phonetic spelling, in turn, has the force indirectly of conï¬rming the establishment here of a clitic, namely -uva.2 A construction resembling ones with -uva omits of and involves adjectives, rather than pronouns or nouns (e.g., not that big a deal, not so wonderful an idea), where the adjective is preceded by a demonstrative pronoun (and typically by negation). Based on my own observation of media language, I have noted an increasing incidence of contamination between
American Speech: A Quarterly of Linguistic Usage – Duke University Press
Published: Jun 1, 2001
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