Date: Thu, 8 Jan 1998 20:38:30 -0500
From: Gerald Cohen gcohen[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]UMR.EDU
Subject: Re: "as best as I can remember"
This past July there were several ads-l messages dealing with the
construction "as best as I can remember"; the consensus was that this
construction is illogical, but I do not remember a clear explanation as to
how it originated.
I believe the construction almost certainly originated as a syntactic
blend--a good example of which is "time and again," blended from "time
after time" and "again and again." In the case of "as best as I can
remember," let's leave off "remember" for the moment and operate with the
following context: "I'll do it as well as I can" and "I'll do it to the
best of my ability." These two can blend to produce "I'll do it as best as
I can." With "as best as" now interchangeable with "as well as" (in this
initial context), its use was extended to other contexts, e.g. "as best as
I can remember."
I have spent 20 years on and off collecting examples of syntactic
blends in English--mostly those in "parole" (i.e. not part of standard
speech). I refer interested readers to two items I have written on blends:
1) Gerald Leonard Cohen: _Syntactic Blends in English _Parole_ _ (=Forum
Anglicum, vol. 15). Frankfurt a.M.: Peter Lang, 1987. 178 pp. --This work
consist primarily of a long of syntactic blends, with the collection aimed
at providing the raw material for further analysis and at emphasizing the
frequency of syntactic blending in everyday speech.
2) Gerald Leonard Cohen: "Contributions to the Study of Blending." in:
_Etymology and Linguistic Principles, vol. l: Pursuit of Linguistic
Insight_, 1988, pp.81-94. I edit and publish this series.
gcohen[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]umr.edu