(as) preposterous as it may sound

kantabel

New Member
chinese
Hi everyone!
Here is the context:
It was the 11th family member to have been killed. I can’t begin to describe the sense of futility I feel. I need to do something, Miss Colson. I’ve been fortunate to have made a lot of money and I can no
longer sit passively. So, as preposterous as it may sound, and as expensive as it may be, I want to sue the
government.

I noticed that the expression "as...as + clause" was widely used this way in spoken language. But this usage is not listed on English grammars I consulted. So can anyone tell me what kind of grammar is the bold clause about?
By the way, I do know that preposterous as it may sound means though it may sound preposterous. My guess is that the meaning of the sentences with/without "as" is same, the latter might be grammatically correct. Is that true? Thank you!
 
  • Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I'm interested that you've raised this, Kantabel, because I've always thought it should be So, preposterous as it may sound, etc. I know people do include that extra as, but can't see that it works grammatically.
     

    Einstein

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    Unlike Thomas, I've never thought about this one! I've always considered the first "as" as an optional extra, or of its omission as an abbreviation, but really thinking about it I agree that it doesn't seem to work grammatically. I'm not 100% convinced of that, though, and I'll be interested o see what others have to say.
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    My personal preference is without the first as. I can't get away from the idea that as.... as... should introduce a comparison, not a concession.

    However, I must admit
    - the "two as" version can be found in respectable sources, and
    - the "two as" version is referenced earlier in the OED than the "single as" version (so ... as from 1225, as ... as from 1300, - ... as from 1627).
     
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    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    I like it - it may sound preposterous. ---> I like it as ["as" stands for "preposterous"] it may sound. ---> I like it, preposterous [as it may sound].There is no comparison here. It is not like saying "as safe as houses". "As" is used here on its own in direct reference to what precedes it, usually an adjective, I suppose. I therefore agree with TT (as I very often do :) ) - "as... as" does not work here.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    My personal preference is without the first as. I can't get away from the idea that as.... as... should introduce a comparison, not a concession.

    However, I must admit
    - the "two as" version can be found in respectable sources, and
    - the "two as" version is referenced earlier in the OED than the "single as" version (so ... as from 1225, as ... as from 1300, - ... as from 1627).
    I think we need to be clear, Teddy, that there is a perfectly respectable as...as form, e.g. he is not as adroit as his brother, which we are not talking about here.

    Preposterous as it may sound here means though it may sound preposterous; it has concessive force. I think that what we've been calling the two-as version - as preposterous as it may sound - has the feel of an adjectival clause, whereas we need an adverb in the sentence, preposterous as it may sound, I want to sue. This is why I don't like the two-as version.

    Are you sure that the as...as form mentioned in the OED as dating from 1300 isn't the respectable adjectival form, rather than the to-my-mind disreputable adverbial form we are considering?
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    Preposterous as it may sound here means though it may sound preposterous; it has concessive force.
    Sorry for butting in, TT, but can we say "as" has concessive force here? I understand it to mean preposterous as (= the way; because; since) it may sound, i.e. as it stands, it may sound preposterous. In your other expression "though" surely has concessive force, of course.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    I have read the original a few times; it strikes me that the first 'as' = to a certain degree*, whereas the second 'as' carries the meaning, "in the manner" e.g. "Hit it as hard as the last one." the two create the comparative. The comparative is formed by contrast, albeit here, positive contrast

    Thus, "So, as preposterous as it may sound," = to the certain degree of 'preposterous' that it may possess in its manner of appearing (=sound) [this is then followed by a 'nevertheless' clause]

    Where as without the first 'as' it says it is [fully] preposterous.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Sorry for butting in, TT, but can we say "as" has concessive force here? I understand it to mean preposterous as (= the way; because; since) it may sound, i.e. as it stands, it may sound preposterous. In your other expression "though" surely has concessive force, of course.
    Hi Boozer,

    There's a similar thread on strange as it may seem.

    I can't see how the subject sentence can mean anything other than Though it may sound preposterous, I want to sue.

    If the two-as version is adjectival, which I feel it must be, what does the adjective refer to? Bear in mind that the as...as form relates two nouns, so we need two nouns. I'm becoming clearer about why I never use the two-as version in this concessive way.

    I worry that your suggestion of as it stands doesn't convey the sense of acknowledgement of absurdity - which is why the adjective preposterous has been chosen - present in the original; are you sure that sense you propose doesn't amount to though as it stands it sounds preposterous? In other words don't you think we are agreeing again?

    ps Cross-posted with Paul, whose post I don't fully understand. My browser takes an age to post!
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    Sorry about my lack of clarity, I feel I'm at the ragged edge of my reasoning. I have now found this that might help:

    OED
    As : 3. a. Without antecedent as [or so], giving emphasis or absoluteness to the attribute or qualification.
    (my emphasis) which is what I tried to express in #9 above.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Sorry about my lack of clarity, I feel I'm at the ragged edge of my reasoning. I have now found this that might help:

    OED (my emphasis) which is what I tried to express in #9 above.
    Thanks for this, Paul. Does the OED give an example?

    I can see it for so, if it means something like I'm feeling so tired. But we don't say I'm feeling as tired do we, to mean I'm feeling very tired (giving emphasis or absoluteness). I suspect I'm missing quite a simple point.
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    TT, I see the "as" in "preposterous as it may sound" as the same "as" as in "As it stands, the sentence is ungrammatical." I see no concessive force in it. It is strange how "preposterous as it may seem" and "preposterous though it may seem" can have different literal meanings but, at the same time, the same pragmatic one...
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    TT, I see the "as" in "preposterous as it may sound" as the same "as" as in "As it stands, the sentence is ungrammatical." I see no concessive force in it. It is strange how "preposterous as it may seem" and "preposterous though it may seem" can have different literal meanings but, at the same time, the same pragmatic one...
    I suspect that you are looking at that as, something which I find hard, and I'm looking at the whole clause, something I find relatively easy.

    Do you agree that preposterous as it may sound, I want to sue means though it sounds preposterous, I want to sue? Kantabel said that it did, and I agree with him or her. I can't see what else it can mean, though that thread I linked in my post #10 makes some wonderful alternative suggestions.
     
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    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    Am I the only one who can see a difference between "as preposterous" and "preposterous"? One is comparative and the other absolute.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Just following up on TT's post 7 question to teddy about the OED....

    Here's what I'd see as the relevant OED definition of "as":
    4. In parenthetical clauses forming an extension of the subject or predicate, with a somewhat concessive force: though, however, to whatever degree or extent.
    The OED gives three types of construction for this:

    a. With antecedent so. (described as Obsolete)
    citations from c1225 to 1470


    b. With antecedent as.
    citations from c1300 to 2008, including these two:

    1985 V. C. Andrews Heaven vii. 133 As mean as he was, he'd save us from starvation.
    2008 Independent 5 Nov. 34/4 As poor as they are, the fashion sense here blows my mind.

    c. Without antecedent
    citations from a1627 to 1999, including:
    1976 R. Coover Public Burning 155 Nevertheless, tough as he was, I could have whipped his ass from Foley Hill to Jenkins Hill and back again.
    1999 B. Gordon Hollywood Exile xiv. 154 There was a call waiting from Yordan. Late as it was, I reached him in Madrid.

    My preference, for this use of as, is also to omit the antecedent: "preposterous as it may sound" rather than "as preposterous as it may sound".
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    1937 E. S. Gardner Case of Dangerous Dowager i. 8 You're going up against a crook who is smart as a steel trap.
    1995 P. Conroy Beach Music (1996) ii. 41 An immaculate arrangement, pretty as a rose.

    Many thanks for these, Paul. I'm not clear that these are examples of what I'm talking about at all. Because the expressions are unashamedly adjectival.

    Smart as a steel trap, the crook avoided all efforts to catch him would be fine, and the expression is an adjective referring to the crook.

    Preposterous as it may sound is, I have been arguing, an adverbial clause which doesn't refer to any single noun in the following main clause, I want to sue etc... I'm arguing further that as often means something very close to though in such sentences.

    I fear we may still be at cross-purposes. I'm arguing that the expression as + adjective + as is adjectival and that the expression adjective as it may seem is adverbial. I fully agree that adjective + as (smart as a steel trap) can be adjectival; I just don't think that is what we are dealing with here.
     

    Pertinax

    Senior Member
    BrE->AuE
    Perhaps I am missing something here, but to me the effect of omitting the first "as" is just like omitting the "both" from "both..and" or the "neither" from "neither..nor". It does not affect the meaning. Nor do I have any preference with or without.

    The OED examples do not suggest any semantic difference. Their second example with an initial "as" is dated 1523:
    than thenglysshmen as sore trayueled as they were made then a gret assaut
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    I fear we may still be at cross-purposes.
    Yes, to an extent we are. I am speaking of the need for the first "as". I see it as having a use that distinguishes it from the phrase lacking it.
    I'm arguing that the expression as + adjective + as is adjectival and that the expression adjective as it may seem is adverbial. I fully agree that adjective + as (smart as a steel trap) can be adjectival; I just don't think that is what we are dealing with here.
    "the expression adjective as it may seem is adverbial." can be dealt with by simple inversion: "it may seem as adjective", which can be simplified to "it may seem [to be] as [if it be] preposterous" removing the conditionals: "It seems preposterous" and seems to be adjectival.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Yes, to an extent we are. I am speaking of the need for the first "as". I see it as having a use that distinguishes it from the phrase lacking it."the expression adjective as it may seem is adverbial." can be dealt with by simple inversion: "it may seem as adjective", which can be simplified to "it may seem [to be] as [if it be] preposterous" removing the conditionals: "It seems preposterous" and seems to be adjectival.
    You won't be surprised to hear I don't accept this. If preposterous as it may seem is adjectival in the sentence in the OP, what noun does it qualify in the main clause, I want to sue the...?
     

    Einstein

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    Can we say that "preposterous as it may seem" means "it may seem preposterous but", while "as preposterous as it may seem" means "however preposterous it may seem"? I can see that, Paul, if it's what you're trying to say.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    You won't be surprised to hear I don't accept this. If preposterous as it may seem is adjectival in the sentence in the OP, what noun does it qualify in the main clause, I want to sue the...?
    It qualifies the idea/concept of suing.
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    Do you agree that preposterous as it may sound, I want to sue means though it sounds preposterous, I want to sue?
    Yes, I agree that, pragmatically, there is no difference between the two.

    And even though I am overwhelmed by the authority of the OED quoted by Loob a little earlier, I cannot help seeing the following difference:

    preposterous as it may sound - preposterous, the way it probably sounds [I am aware that it probably sounds preposterous]; no concession so far; the concession comes when the whole phrase is opposed to what follows and the concession is inferred from sheer fact of uttering the phrase; the use of "as" within the phrase, however, is absolute, the way I see it.

    though it sounds preposterous - here there is no doubt that "though" has concessive force
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I partly agree with you, boozer:).

    "As" is a strange word, and you're right that with parenthetical clauses of the form X as it [verb], you often can't tell until you reach the main clause of the sentence whether "as" is being used concessively or indicates a reason ~ compare:
    Exhausted as she was, it would have been crazy for her to drive.
    = she was exhausted, and for that reason it would have been crazy for her to drive.

    and
    Exhausted as she was, she decided that she was still going to drive.
    = she was exhausted, but despite that fact
    she decided that she was still going to drive.

    That said, when you have something like "preposterous as it may sound", I think the "as" feels inescapably concessive: the idea has to be "it may sound preposterous, but...". I suspect that this is because of the "may": I can't, myself, construct any sentence in which "X may be/seem/look etc {adjective}" would be followed by "and" rather than "but"....
     
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    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    I can't, myself, construct any sentence in which "X may be/seem/look etc {adjective}" would be followed by "and" rather than "but"....
    Hi, Loob :)

    But you see, this is exactly the thing - the phrase becomes concessive because of the "but", not because of the "as". Or there is something I can't figure out...
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Sorry I wasn't clear, boozer:(. What I was trying to say was that in some cases, "as" only becomes concessive because of the following (implied) "but".

    But that where you have a "may" in the parenthetical clause, there is inescapably a following (implied) "but", so the "as" is inescapably concessive.

    Does that make sense?
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    But that where you have a "may" in the parenthetical clause, there is inescapably a following (implied) "but", so the "as" is inescapably concessive.

    Does that make sense?
    Perfect sense. And I agree. But why does the (implied) "but" have to make "as" concessive if it is the "but" itself that carries concession. I mean, why do we have to blame the implied concession of the phrase on the innocent "as"? :D
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    :D:D:D

    All I can say is that in "preposterous as it may sound", the "as" feels concessive to me, boozer....

    I'm sorry, I know that's a rotten answer!:eek:
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Meanwhile back at the ranch I've been struggling to hear the grammatical evolution behind this first as, so that I can act as devil's advocate against my point of view.

    Let's look at that early example:

    the englysshmen as sore trayueled as they were made then a gret assaut

    Let's give it a modern context and spelling:

    The Englishmen as hard as they tried could not climb the mountain.

    I'm tempted to say that this means either

    a. The Englishmen, however hard they tried, could not climb the mountain, or, as I might also say
    b. The Englishmen, hard as they tried, could not climb the mountain.

    There is a difference of more than emphasis between a. and b. There's a sense of repeated unsuccessful endeavour in a. which I don't find in b., where they tried very hard but maybe not more than once.

    If I can persuade myself that however hard they tried is close in meaning and emphasis to as hard as they tried, I can bring myself to hear the grammatical sense in as hard as they tried, something which has eluded me up to now.

    Having had the shattering revelation, I'm left considering the fact that what follows from this is that there is more than a difference of emphasis between as preposterous as it may sound and preposterous as it may sound, the first carrying a slight suggestion of repeated wonderings in which the idea sounds increasingly preposterous.

    I'm still troubled by the adjective/adverb point: my example about the climbers avoids that issue, which is present in the sentence in the OP.

     
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    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Am I the only one who can see a difference between "as preposterous" and "preposterous"? One is comparative and the other absolute.
    No you are not the only one - I see it the same way. Without the as, it is just raising the concept of preposterous (your "absolute"). With the as, it emphasises the (large) extent to which it sounds preposterous (your "comparative").
     
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