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Writing "enough" three times in such a short sentence seems too repetitive. So is there a different or more succinct way to write it?

Horrible example sentence:

I am drunk enough, fast enough and dumb enough that it just might work!

Just removing the first and second "enough" would change the meaning, no?

I am drunk, fast and dumb enough that it just might work!

So can I write the sentence as follows and get across the same meaning as the example sentence or did I just come up with nonsense?

I am drunk-, fast- and dumb enough that it just might work!

Thank you for your replies!

  • 3
    I prefer the version with all three enoughs -- it feels more colloquial and effective, and it's certainly easier to parse. – StoneyB Jan 17 '15 at 23:51
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    If I was drunk enough I might prefer one of the other two, but the first is clear in meaning and intent and far more poetic. – Hot Licks Jan 18 '15 at 0:00
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    "Big enough and ugly enough" is a common enough phrase. Googling shows some people say "big and ugly enough" but I agree that does change the meaning, or at least introduce ambiguity. – Martin Smith Jan 18 '15 at 0:08
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    The only thing I would change about your first sentence is to add the missing Oxford comma. – tchrist Jan 18 '15 at 0:12
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    While I'm no fanatic for either side in the debate on the Oxford comma, I agree with @tchrist in this case, as an Oxford comma would make the rhythm from the repetition of enough even stronger. – Jon Hanna Jan 18 '15 at 0:17
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I am drunk-, fast- and dumb enough that it just might work!

Hanging hyphens are normally used to be parallel with a hyphenated compound (e.g. "ninetheenth- and twentieth-century writers"). There's no such hypenated compound after the conjunction and so this is very strange and hard to understand.

I am drunk, fast and dumb enough that it just might work!

This is fine. It's possible to interpret it part-way through as "I am drunk. Also I am fast. Also..." but it's not a horrible lurch on reading to readjust when it becomes clear it means "I am drunk enough…" etc.

I am drunk enough, fast enough and dumb enough that it just might work!

Much better. It means the same thing as the previous example but it's clearer in the meaning of each, and has a much better rhythm. It's not more correct than the other, but as well as being clearer in its use of the adverb enough, it's the rhythm of the lovely repetition I'd favour it for.

Aside: Repetition at the end of a clause or phrase, incidentally, is called epistrophe in the study of rhetorical techniques. Other uses of repetition include antanaclasis, epizeuxis, conduplicatio, anadiplosis, anaphora, mesodiplosis, diaphora, epanalepsis and diacope. That we have ten different names for different types of repetition is evidence in itself that repetition isn't necessarily a bad thing. Repetition tends only to be bad if it both adds nothing and repeats something relatively "heavy". Repetition of "light" units (like said tags on dialogue) tends not to even be noticed, and repetition that builds up a rhythm can be the best thing in a piece (it's the best thing in the sentence above). A danger for writers is that things can seem like dreadful repetition on writing or scanning that are unnoticeable or actually strong on actual reading.

  • I absolutely agree with your aside, there are plenty of badly written sentences where repetition should be avoided but in this instance it's almost certainly intentional and is done to add rhythm and effect. Who would try to rewrite Abraham Lincoln's "government of the people, by the people, for the people"? – Mynamite Jan 18 '15 at 0:28
  • @Mynamite eh, well I have done. Though that said it only worked, if it worked at all (who am I to say?) because paraphrasing can hopefully both differ from the original and be fresh, while also evoking the original and hence benefiting from what Lincoln's epistrophe. – Jon Hanna Jan 18 '15 at 0:42
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Removing the first and second "enough" wouldn't necessarily change the meaning. Given the context of "drunk" - which is an unusual word to use in a positive way - the general assumption would be that "enough" applies to all three items.

Edit: Also, the dashes would be unnecessary in your example, because of the natural assumption.

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If your goal is to reduce the repetitive wording, you could use an alternate construction, like:

I am sufficiently drunk, fast, and dumb that it just might work!

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