March 25, 2004

Bored of

A recent post on wordorigins discusses "bored of" as opposed to "bored with". This one strikes me just like "worried of" (discussed here and here) and "eligible of" (discussed here) -- in other words, ungrammatical.

However, Google gets 162,000 hits for "bored of". Lots are "Bored of the Rings" and such-like bad puns, but quite a few are things like "If you are bored of your computer, Desktop Studio can help you." The search also turned up a year-old article entitled "Unnatural Language Processing", by Michael Rundell, that treats this very topic. Rundell observes that

When the British National Corpus (BNC) was assembled in the early 1990s, there were 246 instances of 'bored with', but only 10 hits for 'bored of' -- and most of these came from recorded conversations rather than from written texts. The bored of variant would still, I suspect, be regarded as incorrect by most teachers, but a search on Google finds 112,000 instances of this pairing, as against 340,000 examples of bored with. It is always a bad idea to make predictions about language, but bored of seems to be catching up with bored with, and may well end up being recognized as an acceptable alternative.

It would be neat if this were true, though I'm afraid that Rundell may have been fooled by the "Bored of the Rings" and "Bored of Ed" jokes. It's not totally impossible, though -- "bored of it" now gets 25,400 ghits, whereas "bored with it" gets 48,500 , barely 1.9 times more. All the more reason to look carefully at verb/preposition associations across time, space and genre. Human Social Dynamics, yo.

[Update 3.29.2004: "bored of it" in a cartoon here.] Posted by Mark Liberman at March 25, 2004 12:01 AM