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Of course, “our objectionable phrase”

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Of course is such a trivial phrase that few, I am afraid, will be interested in its history. And yet, what can be stranger than the shape of this most common two-word group? Course in it is evidently a noun. Why then does it not need an article? Is of course one of such adverbial locutions as go to bed, study at school, and stay in town? The OED traces the history of our idiom (I think it can be called an idiom) to the sixteenth century, but all the riddles remain. Of course was first used in the sense of a matter of course (one could also say a thing of course), and meant as a natural result, but the earliest citation of the phrase of course “naturally, certainly,” as we all know it, is amazingly late (1823). It would not have occurred to me to deal with the phrase if I had not run into a discussion of it in my beloved periodical Notes and Queries. The discussion dates to 1879. It will be useful to quote one of the opening paragraphs of the article that set off the exchange. I stand. . .

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News source: Linguistics – OUPblog

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