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Friday, July 06, 2012

Of Course I Realize It's an Idiom!

But I still have trouble with the way the English use "of course (not)."

To American ears, saying "Of course he isn't" implies that what is being denied is either logically impossible or wildly improbable, e.g.:

"Is Bob Murphy a marathon runner?"

"Of course he isn't!"

But in a novel by Ngaoi Marsh (who is, of course, a Kiwi, but wrote in the English idiom) and the following transpires:

[Alleyn and his companion come upon a prone body on a dark path. There has been a murder at the ranch where they are, and the murderer is still loose, and probably is responsible for the state of the body on the path]

Companion: Is he... ["Dead" is implied.]

Alleyn: Of course he isn't.

There is a murderer on the loose, and he has attacked the man on the ground. Why in the world is the man "of course" not dead?

Or someone in a British television program says, "My! There is a huge lump on my neck: I do hope it isn't cancer."

"Of course it isn't!"

"Of course it isn't"? Huge lumps on the neck quite often turn out to be cancer, don't they?

Yes, of course I get that its meaning in these contexts is "What an awful thought!" or something of the sort. I just can't get myself accustomed to using those words in that way. And of course I realize Americans doubtlessly have idioms that sound just as strange to a Brit. And of course I realize how often I have used "of course" in this post.

1 comment:

  1. Is this post a huge waste of my time?

    Of course it isn't!

    ReplyDelete