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a couple of months or a couple months??

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rudky martin

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Feb 22, 2013, 2:20:35 PM2/22/13
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Hello,

When someone says "a couple of months ago", it doesn't mean that it was two months ago but means some months ago. Is it correct?

Also, please tell me if we need to use "of" before "months" in that phrases. I am asking this because I saw in an email sent by a native English speaker he wrote "a couple months ago". I am not sure if it is a typo or it is idiomatic to just say " a couple months ago" without "of".

Thank you.

Jerry Friedman

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Feb 22, 2013, 2:53:27 PM2/22/13
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On Feb 22, 12:20 pm, rudky martin <rudky2...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Hello,
>
> When someone says  "a couple of months ago", it doesn't mean that it was two months ago but means some months ago. Is it correct?

Depends on the person. Many Americans use "couple" to mean "a few,
often but not necessarily two."

> Also, please tell me if we need to use "of" before "months" in that phrases. I am asking this because I saw in an email sent by a native English speaker he wrote "a couple months ago". I am not sure if it is a typo or it is idiomatic to just say " a couple months ago" without "of".

Again, this is very common in America. I think it's pretty rare in
the rest of the English-speaking world.

--
Jerry Friedman

Percival P. Cassidy

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Feb 22, 2013, 2:55:51 PM2/22/13
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On 02/22/13 02:20 pm, rudky martin wrote:

> When someone says "a couple of months ago", it doesn't mean that it was two months ago but means some months ago. Is it correct?

It's somewhat vague, but I would take it to mean two or perhaps three
months but no more.

> Also, please tell me if we need to use "of" before "months" in that phrases. I am asking this because I saw in an email sent by a native English speaker he wrote "a couple months ago". I am not sure if it is a typo or it is idiomatic to just say " a couple months ago" without "of".

The omission of "of" seems to be standard American English usage. It's
not the usage I learned in UK and Australia, but who knows what effect
American movies and TV programs have had on other varieties of English?

Perce

rudky martin

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Feb 22, 2013, 3:05:06 PM2/22/13
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Thank you guys. Yes the guy I mentioned is an American. Now I learn something interesting. Thanks for the useful group.

Mark Brader

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Feb 22, 2013, 3:08:07 PM2/22/13
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Rudky Martin:
> > Also, please tell me if we need to use "of" before "months" in that
> > phrases. I am asking this because I saw in an email sent by a native
> > English speaker he wrote "a couple months ago"...

Perce Cassidy:
> The omission of "of" seems to be standard American English usage.

Let's say it's common informal American usage. Using "a couple of" is
already informal, but shortening it to "a couple" is more so.
--
Mark Brader | Could it be that this law has nothing to do with law, justice,
Toronto | morality, liberty, or foreign trade, and everything to do with
m...@vex.net | politics? Shame on me for being so cynical. -- Morley Safer

My text in this article is in the public domain.

Peter Young

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Feb 22, 2013, 3:16:40 PM2/22/13
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"A couple months" would strike a BrE speaker as being very American.

Peter.

--
Peter Young, (BrE, RP), Consultant Anaesthetist, 1975-2004.
(US equivalent: Certified Anesthesiologist)
Cheltenham and Gloucester, UK. Now happily retired.
http://pnyoung.orpheusweb.co.uk

R H Draney

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Feb 22, 2013, 6:11:00 PM2/22/13
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Peter Young filted:
>
>On 22 Feb 2013 Jerry Friedman <jerry_f...@yahoo.com> wrote:
>
>> On Feb 22, 12:20�pm, rudky martin <rudky2...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
>>> Also, please tll me if we need to use "of" before "months" in that
>>> phrases. I am asking this because I saw in an email sent by a native
>>> English speaker he wrote "a couple months ago". I am not sure if it is
>>> a typo or it is idiomatic to just say " a couple months ago" without
>>> "of".
>
>> Again, this is very common in America. I think it's pretty rare in
>> the rest of the English-speaking world.
>
>"A couple months" would strike a BrE speaker as being very American.

Just as the similarly elided "down the shops" sounds strange ThisPond....r


--
Me? Sarcastic?
Yeah, right.

Robert Bannister

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Feb 22, 2013, 9:06:56 PM2/22/13
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Omitting the "of" is fairly common in America. I'm not sure whether it
has become acceptable there or not, but it hasn't elsewhere in the
English-speaking world. You are correct in assuming that "a couple of"
could mean anything from 2 to 5.

--
Robert Bannister

Stan Brown

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Feb 22, 2013, 10:12:39 PM2/22/13
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On Fri, 22 Feb 2013 14:55:51 -0500, Percival P. Cassidy wrote:
>
> The omission of "of" seems to be standard American English usage.

I don't agree. In my observation, "a couple months" is common in
informal speech, but in writing it's "a couple of months".

--
"The difference between the /almost right/ word and the /right/ word
is ... the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning."
--Mark Twain
Stan Brown, Tompkins County, NY, USA http://OakRoadSystems.com

Stan Brown

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Feb 22, 2013, 10:14:30 PM2/22/13
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On Fri, 22 Feb 2013 14:08:07 -0600, Mark Brader wrote:
>
> Let's say it's common informal American usage. Using "a couple of" is
> already informal,

How so? "A couple of" is perfectly normal for "two".

AHD4 says: "Although the phrase a couple of has been well established
in English since before the Renaissance, modern critics have
sometimes maintained that a couple of is too inexact to be
appropriate in formal writing. But the inexactitude of a couple of
may serve a useful purpose, suggesting that the writer is indifferent
to the precise number of items involved. Thus the sentence She lives
only a couple of miles away implies not only that the distance is
short but that its exact measure is unimportant. This usage should be
considered unobjectionable on all levels of style."

Percival P. Cassidy

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Feb 22, 2013, 11:21:56 PM2/22/13
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On 02/22/13 10:12 pm, Stan Brown wrote:
> On Fri, 22 Feb 2013 14:55:51 -0500, Percival P. Cassidy wrote:
>>
>> The omission of "of" seems to be standard American English usage.
>
> I don't agree. In my observation, "a couple months" is common in
> informal speech, but in writing it's "a couple of months".

I can't say in what contexts I've seen it written without the "of", but
I've heard it often enough and have certainly seen it often enough that
I've written it myself in informal communications, e.g., non-business
e-mails -- but I often have to stop and think whether it's appropriate
on any particular occasion. What I think often is, "Does including the
'of' seem too pedantic or too British?"

I also think sometimes, "What;s wrong with leaving out the 'of'? We
don't say, 'I'll be there in a few of weeks' or 'I'd like a dozen of
eggs'." But I have sometimes been accused of being too logical.

In any case, in a formal communication I probably would write: "two or
three..." or "a small number of...", depending on the context.

Perce

Peter Duncanson [BrE]

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Feb 23, 2013, 5:30:20 AM2/23/13
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On Fri, 22 Feb 2013 23:21:56 -0500, "Percival P. Cassidy"
<Nob...@NotMyISP.net> wrote:

>On 02/22/13 10:12 pm, Stan Brown wrote:
>> On Fri, 22 Feb 2013 14:55:51 -0500, Percival P. Cassidy wrote:
>>>
>>> The omission of "of" seems to be standard American English usage.
>>
>> I don't agree. In my observation, "a couple months" is common in
>> informal speech, but in writing it's "a couple of months".
>
>I can't say in what contexts I've seen it written without the "of", but
>I've heard it often enough and have certainly seen it often enough that
>I've written it myself in informal communications, e.g., non-business
>e-mails -- but I often have to stop and think whether it's appropriate
>on any particular occasion. What I think often is, "Does including the
>'of' seem too pedantic or too British?"
>
>I also think sometimes, "What;s wrong with leaving out the 'of'? We
>don't say, 'I'll be there in a few of weeks' or 'I'd like a dozen of
>eggs'." But I have sometimes been accused of being too logical.
>
To me, in BrE, "couple" seems to be the same sort of word as "group",
"cluster", "crowd", "handful", "pair", etc.

Im writing I wouldn't omit "of" from
"a group/cluster/crowd/handful/pair of things".

And, personally, I wouldn't omit it in speech.

>In any case, in a formal communication I probably would write: "two or
>three..." or "a small number of...", depending on the context.
>
>Perce

--
Peter Duncanson, UK
(in alt.usage.english)
Message has been deleted
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CDB

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Feb 23, 2013, 11:01:25 AM2/23/13
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On 22/02/2013 11:21 PM, Percival P. Cassidy wrote:
> Stan Brown wrote:
>> Percival P. Cassidy wrote:

>>> The omission of "of" seems to be standard American English usage.

>> I don't agree. In my observation, "a couple months" is common in
>> informal speech, but in writing it's "a couple of months".

Agreed. And in speech the difference between the two can almost vanish,
since "of" is often a lightly-pronounced schwa.

I have always asumed the form was adopted from German or Yiddish. Ein
paar Monaten. A glass tea.

> I can't say in what contexts I've seen it written without the "of", but
> I've heard it often enough and have certainly seen it often enough that
> I've written it myself in informal communications, e.g., non-business
> e-mails -- but I often have to stop and think whether it's appropriate
> on any particular occasion. What I think often is, "Does including the
> 'of' seem too pedantic or too British?"

> I also think sometimes, "What;s wrong with leaving out the 'of'? We
> don't say, 'I'll be there in a few of weeks' or 'I'd like a dozen of
> eggs'." But I have sometimes been accused of being too logical.

A brace teeth.

Joe Fineman

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Feb 23, 2013, 5:32:21 PM2/23/13
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In my childhood (California, 1094s), it was sometimes heard, but
certainly not standard. I suppose I thought of it as vulgar or
dialect.
--
--- Joe Fineman jo...@verizon.net

||: The quickest route to the greatest distance :||
||: Lies in the line of least resistance. :||

Peter Duncanson [BrE]

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Feb 23, 2013, 7:26:56 PM2/23/13
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On Sat, 23 Feb 2013 17:32:21 -0500, Joe Fineman <jo...@verizon.net>
wrote:

>In my childhood (California, 1094s)

You are much older than I thought.
Message has been deleted

Joy Beeson

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Feb 24, 2013, 11:21:24 PM2/24/13
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On Sat, 23 Feb 2013 10:06:56 +0800, Robert Bannister
<rob...@clubtelco.com> wrote:

> You are correct in assuming that "a couple of"
> could mean anything from 2 to 5.

I express that as "more than one, probably less than three".

Five is stretching it.

--
Joy Beeson
joy beeson at comcast dot net

Mike L

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Feb 25, 2013, 4:33:53 PM2/25/13
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On Sun, 24 Feb 2013 23:21:24 -0500, Joy Beeson
<jbe...@invalid.net.invalid> wrote:

>On Sat, 23 Feb 2013 10:06:56 +0800, Robert Bannister
><rob...@clubtelco.com> wrote:
>
>> You are correct in assuming that "a couple of"
>> could mean anything from 2 to 5.
>
>I express that as "more than one, probably less than three".
>
>Five is stretching it.

I've heard "a couple or three", which sounds sensible. You can get
tied up following leads like this. Confusingly, foxhounds come in
couples, while two trout, pheasant, etc constitute a brace. Three make
a leash.

--
Mike.

Robert Bannister

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Feb 25, 2013, 8:07:51 PM2/25/13
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On 25/02/13 12:21 PM, Joy Beeson wrote:
> On Sat, 23 Feb 2013 10:06:56 +0800, Robert Bannister
> <rob...@clubtelco.com> wrote:
>
>> You are correct in assuming that "a couple of"
>> could mean anything from 2 to 5.
>
> I express that as "more than one, probably less than three".
>
> Five is stretching it.
>

At a pinch, I think "a couple" could even include one, though not very
often, and I think anyone who realised that there was only one whatever
would correct themselves.

The range 2-5 is interesting. Macedonian uses what they call the "dual"
plural after numbers 2-3 and sometimes 4 and occasionally 5. This "dual"
form looks very like the Russian genitive singular which is also used
after numerals 2-4.

Eden den - 1 day
Dva dena - 2 days
Shest denovi - 6 days
Free choice between "dena" and "denovi" for 3-5 days.
Only one-syllable masculine nouns have this dual form.
--
Robert Bannister

Evan Kirshenbaum

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Feb 25, 2013, 11:57:33 PM2/25/13
to
How about "a couple or two or three" from the Clancy Brothers' "Johnny
McEldoo":

There was Johnny McEldoo and McGee and me
and a couple or two or three went on a spree one day.

Common Irish?

--
Evan Kirshenbaum +------------------------------------
Still with HP Labs |Other computer companies have spent
SF Bay Area (1982-) |15 years working on fault-tolerant
Chicago (1964-1982) |computers. Microsoft has spent
|its time more fruitfully, working
evan.kir...@gmail.com |on fault-tolerant *users*.

http://www.kirshenbaum.net/


Jerry Friedman

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Feb 26, 2013, 12:01:53 AM2/26/13
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On Feb 25, 2:33 pm, Mike L <n...@yahoo.co.uk> wrote:
> On Sun, 24 Feb 2013 23:21:24 -0500, Joy Beeson
>
> <jbee...@invalid.net.invalid> wrote:
> >On Sat, 23 Feb 2013 10:06:56 +0800, Robert Bannister
> ><rob...@clubtelco.com> wrote:
>
> >> You are correct in assuming that "a couple of"
> >> could mean anything from 2 to 5.
>
> >I express that as "more than one, probably less than three".
>
> >Five is stretching it.
>
> I've heard "a couple or three", which sounds sensible.
...

Some Americans--a small minority, I'd guess--say "a couple-three".
I'd call it rustic.

--
Jerry Friedman

James Hogg

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Feb 26, 2013, 1:32:04 AM2/26/13
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Evan Kirshenbaum wrote:
> Mike L <n...@yahoo.co.uk> writes:
>
>> On Sun, 24 Feb 2013 23:21:24 -0500, Joy Beeson
>> <jbe...@invalid.net.invalid> wrote:
>>
>>> On Sat, 23 Feb 2013 10:06:56 +0800, Robert Bannister
>>> <rob...@clubtelco.com> wrote:
>>>
>>>> You are correct in assuming that "a couple of"
>>>> could mean anything from 2 to 5.
>>> I express that as "more than one, probably less than three".
>>>
>>> Five is stretching it.
>> I've heard "a couple or three", which sounds sensible. You can get
>> tied up following leads like this. Confusingly, foxhounds come in
>> couples, while two trout, pheasant, etc constitute a brace. Three make
>> a leash.
>
> How about "a couple or two or three" from the Clancy Brothers' "Johnny
> McEldoo":
>
> There was Johnny McEldoo and McGee and me
> and a couple or two or three went on a spree one day.
>
> Common Irish?

I don't think so. The jocular usage seems to be pretty much confined to
that song.

--
James

Tony Cooper

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Feb 26, 2013, 1:39:57 AM2/26/13
to
That makes me laugh...the "rustic" part. I've never lived where
there weren't sidewalks, but "a couple-a-three"* is something I'd come
out with when I'm not sure whether there were two or three of
whatever, and don't think the actual count is important.

I have no idea why I say "couple-a-three" instead of "couple or
three". I just do.


--
Tony Cooper - Orlando FL

Tony Cooper

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Feb 26, 2013, 2:00:31 AM2/26/13
to
On Mon, 25 Feb 2013 20:57:33 -0800, Evan Kirshenbaum
<evan.kir...@gmail.com> wrote:

>Mike L <n...@yahoo.co.uk> writes:
>
>> On Sun, 24 Feb 2013 23:21:24 -0500, Joy Beeson
>> <jbe...@invalid.net.invalid> wrote:
>>
>>>On Sat, 23 Feb 2013 10:06:56 +0800, Robert Bannister
>>><rob...@clubtelco.com> wrote:
>>>
>>>> You are correct in assuming that "a couple of"
>>>> could mean anything from 2 to 5.
>>>
>>>I express that as "more than one, probably less than three".
>>>
>>>Five is stretching it.
>>
>> I've heard "a couple or three", which sounds sensible. You can get
>> tied up following leads like this. Confusingly, foxhounds come in
>> couples, while two trout, pheasant, etc constitute a brace. Three make
>> a leash.
>
>How about "a couple or two or three" from the Clancy Brothers' "Johnny
>McEldoo":
>
> There was Johnny McEldoo and McGee and me
> and a couple or two or three went on a spree one day.
>
>Common Irish?

Not to your question, but on my 33 1/3 album, Tommy Makem sings one
verse of "The Spree" as:

Johnny McEldoo turned as blue as a Jew
As a plate of Irish stew he soon put out of sight

Where the lyrics on most websites make those lines:

Johnny McEldoo turned red, white and blue
As a plate of Irish stew he soon put out of sight

If you read all of the lyrics, the "red, white and blue" phrasing
doesn't fit with the way the rest of the song lyrics go with words in
each line rhyming with other words in the same line and usually with a
third word somewhere in the next line.

Mudcat Cafe, the better source for all folk music lyrics, gives the
lines as:

Johnny McEldoo turned as blue as the dew
As a plate of Irish stew he soon put out of sight

That line, at least, follows the pattern of the rest of song with
rhyme within line:


http://mudcat.org/@displaysong.cfm?SongID=6998


Ah, here's verification of the "blue as a Jew":
http://www.songlyrics.com/clancy-brothers/johnny-mac-adoo-lyrics/


While Tommy Makem was with the Clancy Brothers for many of their
albums, he was not a Clancy. I saw him in person a few times in his
bar in NYC, and this was a trademark song for him, but I don't
remember if he sang it or not when I was in the audience. Probably,
though.

R H Draney

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Feb 26, 2013, 4:08:28 AM2/26/13
to
Tony Cooper filted:
>
>While Tommy Makem was with the Clancy Brothers for many of their
>albums, he was not a Clancy.

One can make almost the same point that Alvino Rey was a member of the King
Family when they had their television show in the 1960s...after all, he was
married to one of the King Sisters, and the stage name he'd chosen for himself
before meeting any of the family made for a coincidence matched only by the
teaming of Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising to create the original Looney Tunes
series....r

Peter Duncanson [BrE]

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Feb 26, 2013, 6:29:04 AM2/26/13
to
On Tue, 26 Feb 2013 02:00:31 -0500, Tony Cooper
<tonyco...@gmail.com> wrote:

>While Tommy Makem was with the Clancy Brothers for many of their
>albums, he was not a Clancy.

When they were mentioned on TV and radio here in Northern Ireland they
were always referred to as "The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem". Any
mention of "The Clancy Brothers" would have implied that Tomy Makem was
not with them.

Tony Cooper

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Feb 26, 2013, 10:45:50 AM2/26/13
to
On Tue, 26 Feb 2013 11:29:04 +0000, "Peter Duncanson [BrE]"
<ma...@peterduncanson.net> wrote:

>On Tue, 26 Feb 2013 02:00:31 -0500, Tony Cooper
><tonyco...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
>>While Tommy Makem was with the Clancy Brothers for many of their
>>albums, he was not a Clancy.
>
>When they were mentioned on TV and radio here in Northern Ireland they
>were always referred to as "The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem". Any
>mention of "The Clancy Brothers" would have implied that Tomy Makem was
>not with them.

Tommy was born in County Armagh in Northern Ireland, and the Clancy
brothers were born in County Tipperary in the ROI. That mix, in the
days they joined together, was a bit unusual with the politics and
all.

Evan Kirshenbaum

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Feb 26, 2013, 11:57:47 AM2/26/13
to
I have the studio version of the song (on _Irish Songs of Drinking and
Rebellion_) with "as blue as a Jew" and the live version (on _Hearty
and Hellish!_) with "red, white, and blue". I don't know how old the
studio version is, but by 1962, they had apparently changed it, at
least for live performances.

> If you read all of the lyrics, the "red, white and blue" phrasing
> doesn't fit with the way the rest of the song lyrics go with words
> in each line rhyming with other words in the same line and usually
> with a third word somewhere in the next line.
>
> Mudcat Cafe, the better source for all folk music lyrics, gives the
> lines as:
>
> Johnny McEldoo turned as blue as the dew
> As a plate of Irish stew he soon put out of sight
>
> That line, at least, follows the pattern of the rest of song with
> rhyme within line:
>
> http://mudcat.org/@displaysong.cfm?SongID=6998
>
> Ah, here's verification of the "blue as a Jew":
> http://www.songlyrics.com/clancy-brothers/johnny-mac-adoo-lyrics/
>
> While Tommy Makem was with the Clancy Brothers for many of their
> albums, he was not a Clancy. I saw him in person a few times in his
> bar in NYC, and this was a trademark song for him, but I don't
> remember if he sang it or not when I was in the audience. Probably,
> though.

--
Evan Kirshenbaum +------------------------------------
Still with HP Labs |If all else fails, embarrass the
SF Bay Area (1982-) |industry into doing the right
Chicago (1964-1982) |thing.
| Dean Thompson
evan.kir...@gmail.com

http://www.kirshenbaum.net/


Jerry Friedman

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Feb 26, 2013, 1:00:32 PM2/26/13
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I don't remember hearing "a couple-a-three". I was talking about "a
couple-three".

One Urban Dictionary entries ascribes it to southeast Michigan (the
most urban part of the state, of course) in the '60s, and the other
says it's "redneck". (The UD also has "couple two three", supposedly
from the Wyoming Valley [is that in Pennsylvania?, with this charming
example: "Can I get a couple two tree hoddogs, one wit sauerkraut, one
wit not?")

An essay by a woman with two husbands calls it a "mid-south
colloquialism".

http://kcl.bi.org/blb.html

--
Jerry Friedman lives in a town with few sidewalks.
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