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expletive

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Definition:

(1) In grammar, a construction that begins with the word here, there, or it and is followed by a form of the verb to be. See also:

(2) A profane or obscene expression. In the book Expletive Deleted: A Good Look at Bad Language (2005), Ruth Wajnryb points out that expletives are "frequently uttered without addressing anyone specifically. In this sense, they are reflexive--that is, turned in on the user." See also: swear word.

Etymology:

From Latin, "to fill"

Examples and Observations:

  • "Rather than providing a grammatical or structural meaning as the other structure-word classes do, the expletives--sometimes defined as 'empty words'--generally act simply as operators that allow us to manipulate sentences in a variety of ways."
    (Martha Kolln, Understanding English Grammar, 1998)


  • "It is easy when we are in prosperity to give advice to the afflicted."
    (Aeschylus)


  • "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."
    (Benjamin Disraeli)


  • "Here is the test to find whether your mission on earth is finished. If you're alive, it isn't."
    (Richard Bach)


  • "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."
    (Albert Einstein)


  • Expletive Constructions
    "[A] device for emphasizing a particular word (whether the normal complement or the normal subject) is the so-called expletive construction, in which we begin the sentence with 'It is' or 'There is.' Thus, we can write: 'It was a book that John gave' (or simply 'It was a book'). But we can also write, throwing stress on the normal subject: 'It was John who gave the book.' . . .

    "Be on your guard against drifting into expletive or passive constructions. Obviously we achieve no emphasis if . . . we begin a good half of our sentences with 'It is' or 'There is' . . .. All emphasis or haphazard emphasis is no emphasis."
    (Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren, Modern Rhetoric, 3rd ed. Harcourt, 1972)


  • "Expletive Deleted"
    "(1) Originally, an expression used to fill out a line of verse or a sentence, without adding anything to the sense. (2) An interjected word, especially an oath or a swearword. At the time of the Watergate hearings in the U.S. in the 1970s, during the presidency of Richard Nixon, the phrase expletive deleted occurred frequently in the transcript of the White House tapes. The connection between original and derived meaning is caught in the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (1987), explaining the expletive use of f---ing as an adjective in I got my f---ing foot caught in the f---ing door: it is 'used as an almost meaningless addition to speech.' Here, it is meaningless at the level of ideas but hardly at the level of emotion."
    (R. F. Ilson, "Expletive." in The Oxford Companion to the English Language. Oxford University Press, 1992)
Pronunciation: EX-pli-tiv

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