Posted by R. Berg on December 11, 2003
In Reply to: You're missing the point... posted by Word Camel on December 11, 2003
: : : : : : : : : All of a sudden, or All of the sudden?
: : : : : : : : : I get what it means but don't you think it sounds stupid if you really think about it? All of a sudden what? Obviously it means a sudden moment in time but there is no such thing as "a sudden"
: : : : : : : : : I just thought I would see what you guys have to think about this, thanks. ;)
: : : : : : : : "All of a sudden" sounds natural to me, but "All at once", which means the same thing, sounded awkward to me the first time I heard it. I'll have to vote Not Stupid on "All of a sudden"!
: : : : : : : "Sudden" was used as a noun in the 16th and 17th centuries, now marked obsolete in the Oxford English Dictionary. Definition: "A sudden need, danger, or the like; an emergency." Earliest quotation for this sense: "Howe redye they be in matters of dowbte, howe constant in the Sodeyne of dayngers" .
: : : : : :
: : : : : : Is that a noun? It sounds like an adjective. ie. sudden danger (is describing the nature of the danger, which is sudden), even 'the sodeyne of dayngers', although I admit to treading on dangerous and unknown ground on this one, sounds like it's again describing the type of 'dayngers'. I don't know, I'm just asking. Still, I've never thought about it before, but 'sudden' is a damn good word isn't it??? It implies something far more abrupt than say immediate, or even urgent.
: : : : : If you're impressed by 'sudden' then try 'catastrophic': it'll blow your mind.
: : : "Sudden" is a real noun, if an obsolete one save for its use in "all of a sudden." You don't think the OED would get something like that wrong, do you?
: : No wasn't querying the dictionary, just didn't understand how it worked. I repeat your examples didn't sound like nouns. Don't they seem odd to you? If not, well congratulations, but I had no idea I couldn't query why. I thought the idea of this website was to explore words, and even if the bibles of words say something, surely we can still wonder why (in fact on this site, that's what we usually do)?
: It sounds like an adjective because we aren't used to hearing it as a noun because it's obsolete - but clearly in the example given, it is used as a noun. That much isn't open to debate. So, yes, it sounds odd. There's no great mystery in that but ponder on if it makes you happy.
: As an aside, the great thing about the OED is that it isn't like a bible at all. It's a living document. If I find a reference earlier than someone else's, the OED will use my reference in the next printing. Some people in this forum are contributors. So when something is in the OED it's not the last word (pardon the pun) but most people take it fairly seriously because it so well-researched and ironically because it is constantly questioned, improved and revised.
I quoted the OED because the information that "sudden" was once a noun answers the original question about the odd phrase "all of a sudden," in which an otherwise obsolete use of "sudden" has survived. In "the sudden of dangers," "sudden" was clearly used as a noun; the tipoff is "the" before the word and "of" after it. It does sound odd to me because that sense of "sudden" is obsolete rather than current. Language changes, and that's why the OED, a historical dictionary, answers so many questions about phrases. You're free to wonder about anything you want to.