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I’m wondering if an article is used with the word overkill:

  • Something seems like an overkill (to me).
  • Something seems like overkill (to me).

Which is grammatical?

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closed as general reference by J.R., Kris, Carlo_R., Robusto, MετάEd Jan 19 '13 at 14:45

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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You say "seems like overkill", not "seems like an overkill". Have a look. VTCAGR. –  J.R. Jan 19 '13 at 11:29
    
Thank you for sharing this website. I'll use it more often. –  Grant Jan 19 '13 at 11:30
    
It doesn't tell the whole story all the time (it gets its data from books and magazines, not conversations). But it's a great reference tool for questions like the one you asked here. –  J.R. Jan 19 '13 at 11:32
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1 Answer 1

up vote 2 down vote accepted

It depends what is meant by overkill.

ODO has overkill as a mass (uncountable) noun:

noun [mass noun]
1 excessive use, treatment, or action
2 the amount by which destruction or the capacity for destruction exceeds what is necessary

[Interestingly, OED indicates sense 2 came first, and the word has been applied more generally so that sense 1 is now what overkill usually means.]

Because it's a mass noun, overkill will not usually take the indefinite article.

Mass nouns can take the indefinite article when you are talking about a type of the thing: "Foccaccia is a bread". However it's difficult to conceive a sentence where overkill would fit like that.

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Sense 2 did indeed come first. It came from military analyses of the nuclear arsenals of the Cold War powers. It was also called "pounding the rubble" from which came the joke that the effect of the arms race on the USSR's economy was "pounding the ruble". –  Jon Hanna Jan 19 '13 at 15:39
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