I was wondering if 'spread out over no telling how many years' is syntactically correct (Please see the quote at the bottom). Through the help of another forum, I now know 'no telling how many years' brings the sense 'it's impossible to guess how many years the decoration would be used' into the sentence, semantically interrupting it halfway. 'Over' should take a time noun here, but suddenly, BOOOM! 'no telling.' It is somewhat a sentence with 'there is no telling how many years' embedded in it.
preposition + no telling/ verb (other than 'be' of 'there be') + no telling, conveying the sense of 'there be no telling ...'
Although it might possibly be unorthodox English, I would like to be able to use it. I've tried to come up with example sentences in the other forum in vain. Here are some more I made up after a long thought:
- The ancient village existed at the tip of the peninsula for no telling how long, but it was there and prospered for sure.
- Seems like the dog came back with no telling what in his mouth. His tongue is all purple now. But we don't know what it was. There is no trace left other than that.
We were ready for Christmas, and we'd got that way inexpensively --- a word you use when you don't want to say cheap. The total investment in decorations, beginning with the free tree, might have reached $20.00 --- a lavish sum spread out over no telling how many years. Decorating today is an ornament of a different color. I Googled "Christmas decorations for sale" and looked at what's available in modern Yuletide festoonery. ("Hang That Tree Ornament" --- 'And the merchant who sold it to you' by William Jeanes, The Saturday Evening Post, Nov/Dec 2011)