Date: Thu, 9 Apr 1998 15:20:01 -0400
From: Larry Horn
Subject: Re: flat

At 11:50 AM -0700 4/9/98, Peter Richardson wrote:
>This morning on NPR there was an interview with a survivor of that
>horrible tornado that killed so many in Alabama. Her statement included:
>"...a lotta people who are gonna flat need prayer..."
>I'm wondering about the distribution of _flat_ as an intensifier, since it
>appears not to be in DARE. The RHHDAS lists it as an adverb, as in "I'm
>flat broke"--something I heard growing up in Illinois. But this
>intensifying function seems rarer. Any ideas?

There's also the related (I assume) "flat-out". I've heard "he can flat
out play", "he flat-out blew the call", and "he's a flat-out superstar", or
their equivalents in sportscasterese, and I'm sure it would turn up all
over the place on Nexis. The first "flat" above does sound like a
regionalism to me, though. (And I wonder about the
distribution--collocational, not geographic--of the intensifying "flat" of
"flat broke". I can imagine "flat-out brilliant", but not "flat
brilliant", in my own idiolect.) The OED does have "flat broke" as a
specific Americanism dating back at least to Bartlett's 1859 Dictionary,
but then it also has the interesting 1601 cite "I am flat of your mind"
under the heading of adverbial FLAT = 'absolutely, downright, fully'. And
then there's the related postposed "flat" = 'exactly' (three minutes flat)
or 'completely' (turned me down flat). They all seem to suggest something
like 'no two ways about it.'