Thursday, March 1, 2012

Corpus Linguistics: A Slim Figure of Speech Graph

Is it "slim to none" or "slim and none"?

I grew up with the phrase "slim to none", which means that the chances of an event occurring fall somewhere between slim and none. In other words, there is a scale with multiple options (admittedly the options are slim from the get go).
<---->
SLIM | | | | | | NONE

In a book I am reading currently, I encountered the phrase "slim and none". I initially thought there was either an unintentional conjunction error or that the author grew up mishearing the phrase.

A quick Google search told me that there really are two semantically-sensible versions.

The alternate version, "slim and none", simply eliminates the scalar aspect of the phrase; thus the chances of an event occurring are either slim or none.

SLIM [ ] NONE [ ]

I can't believe that I had never heard this alternate version. Now I am wondering if it is a regional variation. Please help me by commenting below with your preferred version and your region of origin.

I did feel a bit better about my lack of familiarity with the non-scalar version when I graphed the two versions on Google Ngram.

Click on chart to enlarge.
slim to none slim and none

From Google Books Ngram Viewer

7 comments:

Jane Doe said...

I grew up saying/hearing "slim to none." This is the first time I've ever heard "slim and none." I'm from the West (Idaho and Utah).

Anonymous said...

Slim to none, here. Grew up in Western Canada. :)

4ndyman said...

Slim to none as well, in Indiana.

Laura Payne said...

Thank you for commenting, Jane Doe, Anonymous and 4ndyman.

Keep the comments coming.

The Ridger, FCD said...

From Tennessee, and I know I've heard them both, and use them both. "Slim to none" is a real estimate, while "slim and none" is sarcastic - it almost always comes in the form of "you've got two chances: slim, and none", and it *means* none.

Stacey said...

Slim to none (Massachusetts)

Elliott said...

slim to none - SE PA

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