Did I not get the memo about "couple of" ?

Help! A secret change was agreed to by everyone but me, or I’ve just been writing/reading/saying this incorrectly all of my life . . .

In my brain: “Jane bought a couple of apples.”
New(?) way: “Jane bought a couple apples.”


To the best of my knowledge, couple with the of is the formal construction and couple without is informal.

I’m starting to see the “of” dropped in more formal writing (of late, a New Yorker article and a WSJ op-ed).

It just sounds so freakin’ weird to me!

I usually slur “couple of” so it sounds like “coupla.”

Yup! I also have “pairsa” shoes and socks and “paira” pants :slight_smile:

Here’s a relatively recent langaugelog about it. You may not be wrong in noticing an uptick in the informal usage.

“Jane bought a couple two tree apples.”

I’ll add that this appears to be a US-only quirk of English. I notice it every time.

I don’t know if it’s strictly a US regional thing, but the Cambridge dictionary appears never to have heard of the dropped “of” except in the usual exception of preceding “more”, as in “a couple more examples”.

Just my opinion, but I would posit that dropping the “of” is just plain wrong and is becoming perhaps informally accepted for just the same reason that a lot of originally mistaken usage becomes de facto correct if used persistently and long enough to make it into the style and usage manuals, much to the dismay of us annoying prescriptivists. But it’s probably either a lazy mistake that comes from slurring the spoken “of”, or from a misapplication of the “preceding more” rule.

To me “couple” in this context should obey the same usage form as “pair” or “set”. Thus I have a pair of pants, a set of dishes, and a couple of wineglasses. If anyone feels they have “a couple wineglasses”, then they’d better be prepared to have a pair pants and a set dishes, too.

The hell?

I have a dozen eggs and a couple bottles of whisky.

Then you have the makings of a drunken breakfast! :wink:

But no. You have a dozen eggs and couple of bottles of whisky. In your example “dozen” functions as a part of speech called a determiner, specifically a quantity or numeric determiner which is basically acting like an adjective. Same with determiners like “few” and “many”, or just plain numbers like “seven”. Whereas “couple” may seem similar but, just like “pair” or “set”, they’re strictly nouns. Notice, incidentally, the “of” that even you used between “bottles” and “whisky” for a similar reason.

So if you’re going to go around proclaiming that you have a couple bottles of whisky, why not be consistent a say that you have a couple bottles whisky? And then put on a pair pants and wash that set dishes! :slight_smile:

I’m wondering if the spelling of this contacted word should be " couple o’ ".

Some contracted words are nearly unrecognizable at least audibly. The difficulty asserts itself when you have to transcribe them.

One phrase using a chopped up “of” in the form of "o’ " is the common English expression of time.

I never say that I have an appointment to get my shoe lint cleaned out at 5 of the clock. But that’s really what I’m saying in a abbreviated form.

How do you tell when a language change is changing correctly?

The OED recognizes the (colloquial) usage, with the first example cited dating from 1876:

Because he’s speaking English, and the English language treats consistency more or less the way Superman treats Kryptonite.

This was always a bone of contention between my ex and me. My default is to include “of” which he, being the the tremendous scholar (NOT!) always felt the need to mock. To my ears, a sentence such as “get off me” (yes, this is actually the sentence that started our fights about it :stuck_out_tongue: ) sounds like it has something missing. Not wrong, per se, just non standard. In the same way “where you at” sounds not quite right, yet I hear many people say it. I believe it is a preposition, but then again, so is “off” so maybe it is redundant(?)
And now I’ve said it so many times in my head both ways have lost any meaning :smack:

I would argue that it’s not “correctness” that is the important criterion here, but usefulness. When a capable writer crafts a sentence in an unusual way that lends it grace and power, you won’t find me quibbling about its grammatical flaws. But the language changes that result from mistakes and ignorance are rarely useful. When a dumbass writes “You should of told me that going to class was more important then smoking doobies with a couple friend’s, and I would of went” it’s hard to see how this enriches the expressive powers of the language.

There was a long and acrimonious debate in GQ some time ago about the expression “I could care less”, a peculiar formulation that seems to have attracted a following of apologists trying to retroactively rationalize it as some form of wit or creative irony. I think it’s just an example of a syndrome that makes the language illogical and confusing, and probably owes more to careless corruption of the original than to any sort of wit. As to whether I care about it, I think it’s very clear that I could care less, which should leave no doubt at all about where I stand. :wink:

True, and the above helps explain at least part of the reason it’s become that way.

Terry Pratchett’s rephrasing of a James Nicoll quote sums it up nicely, especially the first sentence in this case:

Hah! Nice quote, and I agree. My argument isn’t about maintaining purity, however, since that horse left the barn long before the Norman conquest. The worthy objective is to keep this old cribhouse whore in as good a state of health as we can manage.

ETA: And “purity” isn’t the same as some semblance of logic and consistency. ISTM that one example of a linguistic culture that pursues purity is French, and that hasn’t done the language any favors. English is far richer and more expressive. I don’t dispute or oppose any of that!