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"I am hard of seeing" or "I am hard of walking" are just never used. How did people come to call semi-deafness "hard of hearing"?

Especially, why is "hard of" used? I could understand "weak of hearing", but why "hard"?

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Google NGrams does report examples for hard of seeing – JoseK Jul 11 '11 at 12:10
@JoseK: Yes, and graphing "seeing" against "hearing" kinda proves my point. – Daniel Jul 11 '11 at 12:14
May be hard of hearing stuck on because it appeared in Shakespeare – JoseK Jul 11 '11 at 12:23
@drm65: I have a (good) guess, but no references, so I'll avoid posting although I'm pretty sure of it... If nothing comes up or if I find something more, I'll post it. – Alenanno Jul 11 '11 at 13:03
@Jose: I figured it might have been. . . although there it seems to mean something along the lines of difficult to hear. – Callithumpian Jul 11 '11 at 16:44
up vote 5 down vote accepted

It's a common construction from Middle English that is used not-so-unextensively as you'd think:

Fleet of foot.

Yorkshire born and Yorkshire bred, Strong of arm and thick of head.


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Yes, but that wasn't my question so much how the "hard" came to be applied to the "of" construction. – Daniel Jul 11 '11 at 12:17
I don't think there's a special reason for "hard' to be used in this way -- It's an adjective, so it fits into the adjective-"of"-noun template. – Mark Wallace Jul 11 '11 at 12:50

Interesting question. Etymonline's entry on hard explains that the phrase hard of hearing "preserves obsolete M.E. sense of having difficulty in doing something." This doesn't explain why it is only used for partial deafness. Maybe its alliteration lent it such long life.

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Actually, "hard of seeing" is in use. It was coined by the late, Dr. Lorraine June Marchi Fastie. click here to read about her

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