What does the phrase mean in "He annoys me to no end"?
Literally, does it mean that he annoys me forever? Or does it mean that he annoys me to no result?
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The OED discusses no end in the context of end, which is noted as of Old English/Saxon origins to mean 1a. "the extremity or outermost part (in any direction) of a portion of space, or of anything extended in space; utmost limit," and 1b. "a limit of magnitude or multitude." No end is defined as a colloquialism that means "a vast quantity or number (of)," and in modern slang as "‘immensely’, ‘to any extent’; and (with of) qualifying a predicate." The provided example quotes are below.
It isn't difficult to invent a sentence that combines "no end" and "to no end" in their traditional idiomatic senses. Perhaps looking at such a sentence would help clarify why treating the two as equivalent in meaning isn't particularly desirable as a way to achieve immediate coherence. Here's an example:
The government spent no end of money on institutional reforms, to no end.
In this sentence "no end of money" means "a vast amount of money from a seemingly endless supply of the stuff," and "to no end" means "to no purpose" or "without positive effect."
If we shift now to the poster's sentence about an annoying person, we see that
He annoys me no end.
seamlessly employs the "endlessly" sense of the unadorned phrase "no end." In contrast, the wording
He annoys me to no end.
would be suitable for a situation where someone comes to your door and tries to get you to buy magazines subscriptions that you don't want so that he can earn points toward some sort of fabulous (and perhaps imaginary) prize. He annoys you, but you don't buy the magazines, so all his salesmanship is to no avail—or "to no end."
But many people (in the United States, anyway) say "to no end" when they mean simply "no end." In my opinion, this wording gratuitously muddies the waters of comprehension, and in a better world people wouldn't do it; but in our world it appears to be establishing itself quite comfortably. Here is an Ngram chart comparing the frequency of "annoys me no end" (blue line) and the frequency of "annoys me to no end" (red line) for the period 1900–2007:
A Google Books search for "annoys me no end" yields two matches from 1938—from John Klempner, No Storks at Nine and from Mental Hygiene, volume 22. The first match for "annoys me to no end" appears in a 1964 issue of The Broadside of Boston, seemingly in a letter to the editor.
Anyway, language being what it is, we are left to do our best to clear up ambiguities flowing from the confusing usage when we see them and are in a position to make things more lucid. As Henry Fowler wrote on another occasion in Modern English Usage (1926):
What grammarians say should be has perhaps less influence on what shall be than even the most modest of them realize; usage evolves itself little disturbed by their likes and dislikes. And yet the temptation to show how better use might have been made of the material to hand is sometimes irresistible.
Gosh ! - how animated we get about our language (inevitably) evolving !
USAish (which calls itself English, even when it departs from being "pertaining to England or its folk" so far as to invent other ways to refer to my native vernacular, rather than finding another word for itself, when the differences matter) has been growing a tendency to insert (formerly superfluous) prepositions into phrases ("of" being now a widespread insertion after "outside", "inside" and kindred words, for example) that didn't have them when I was young (and the Beatles had short hair-cuts).
A few decades ago, "to no end" meant "without achieving any useful result" and "no end" meant "endless(ly)". I still use these phrases only with those meanings (because that's what I grew up with); but I understand folk who use the former idiom with the latter meaning. It does irk me a little, but the first rule of the English language is "if your audience knows what you mean, you succeeded" and the second is "if you understood what the speaker meant, they said it well enough". I doubt there are any other rules worthy of note.
This novel (and ambiguating) use of "to no end" may have started as a mis-expression (whether written or spoken) but it is coming (along with those other "stray" prepositions) to be a marker of "modern USAish" affiliation among speakers within the Anglic group. Every culture desperately needs its markers of identity; let them have them. I shall continue speaking English (or, at least, calling the language I speak "English"); I suppose others from England shall invent their own markers and depart from the language of my youth; maybe I shall adopt some of those (as I have done with USAish's wonderfully clarifying use of "through" as in "from first through last"), but I shall accept my neglect of the rest as just another marker - of my antiquity. That doesn't make my "English" any more (or less) "valid" than theirs, or than what I call "USAish"; it's just another thread in the eternal messy braid that makes up the language and its evolution.
Language changes, languages diverge; evolution happens.
In English (as in other languages, I am sure), we do not like to repeat words or phrases too often. In this case, "to no end" makes sense as well, because the rest is implied. "He annoys me to no end (of my annoyance)." In other words, there is no end to his annoying behavior.
At least, that is my understanding of using the phrase in that way.
Better usage may be "He annoys me without end." Or, perhaps, "He annoys me ceaselessly."
Still, language is not perfect, especially English because it derives from so many sources, and we have to take into account the native languages from which it evolved. Phraseology, adjective placement, etc. all vary so much between those sources, it is no wonder that we find strange usages and what we might consider as "odd" ways of putting things.
means "pointless". Why are we doing this work? To no end!
simply means "a lot" or "endlessly". "He annoys me to no end." quite simply means he annoys me a lot, he annoys me endlessly.
It's just that simple. It's meant to be "He annoys me no end." it's a typo, or if spoken, a mis-speaking.
It's incredibly common in spoken language that people will confuse idioms. There is simply nothing more to it than that.