Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Irk of the Week # 326: The Decoupling of Couple Of

I’m currently reading a novel called [REDACTED] by [REDACTED], which is a very fine novel indeed, despite the author having – as seems to be the fashion – a bizarre abhorrence of using the words ‘couple’ and ‘of’ in conjunction. One such example:
They’re just a couple stupid little girls.
  Now, the first time you stumble (and stumble you do) across this, you might well assume it’s a typo, and let it slide. But when it reoccurs four or five times in the course of a single novel (otherwise typo-free), you may assume it’s a stylistic tic, and start to wonder why said tic has become so prevalent.
  Because the thing is, it simply doesn’t scan, and not least because anyone saying that line is making a conscious decision to omit the word ‘of’.
  Try saying ‘They’re just a couple stupid little girls’ aloud; then try it using ‘couple of’, ‘couple a’ or even ‘coupla’.
  If you can’t hear the difference, I apologise – it’s very likely the sound my grinding teeth drowning out the nuance.
  Of course, the line could also be written thusly:
They’re just a couple stupid little girls.
  Because the reader already knows there are two girls under discussion, we don’t really need the ‘a couple’ at all; and anyway, you’ve got that lovely plural built in there at the end, just to be doubly sure.
  Next week’s Irk: the epidemic of authors forcing characters to ‘fire up’ their computers, laptops, et al, instead of simply allowing said characters to switch on, or turn on, their computers, laptops, et al, thus costing the benighted denizens of Characterland a small fortune as they rush to invest in flame-retardant technology.