I found this. And I have an additional question. Why "all of a" and not "in a". "In a" seems logical to me. I don't get "all of a".
Student or Learner
Would you be kind enough to tell me whether I am right with my interpretation of the expression in bold in the following sentence?
They’ll rehearse all right. When it comes to the night they are all of a dither. (Pristley’s “The God Companions”)
all of a dither = in a state of excitement
Thank you for your efforts.
dither - definition of dither by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia.
"A state of indecisive agitation."
I think the emphasis should perhaps be on agitation rather than excitement (although their excitement may well be the cause of their agitation). It's a subtle difference of meaning, though.
One can be excited about something without being in a dither. When one is in a dither it is, generally speaking, a negative thing. It's a bad reaction to a stressful or important situation. Some people perform better for being under stress and excited; others end up all of a dither.
@ birdeen - all of a dither sounds, to my native ear, a little more emphatic than in a dither.
One could be in a bit of a dither or totally in a dither - if it's the latter, then all of a dither would work very nicely as an alternative way to put it.
Could you give more examples of "all of a something"? I know only "all of a sudden" but I don't think anything can be all of a sudden.
I think it works as an emphatic version of a lot of things.
Google tells me:
"in a dither" - About 324,000 results
"all of a dither" - About 2,550 results
"in a panic" - About 1,310,000 results
"all of a panic" - About 11,000,000 results
"in a tizzy" - About 1,890,000 results
"all of a tizzy" - About 1,270,000 results
"in a flutter" - About 32,700 results
"all of a flutter" - About 1,800,000 results
"in a flap" - About 53,500 results
"all of a flap" - About 1,180,000 results
All of a sudden is just an emphatic way of saying suddenly. You are right that things can't "be all of a sudden" - but they certainly can "happen all of a sudden". There is an obsolete noun "a sudden" which meant "something unexpected" which I suspect is how the phrase originally arose, although that's just me speculating right now; perhaps someone with some free time could do a little deeper research?
Last edited by Tullia; 31-Aug-2010 at 16:06.
Thank you very much, I had no idea!
I still can't get why it's "all of"... Would it be correct without "all"? I understand it's probably idiomatic but even idioms have their logic...
Thanks for the confusion! I like being confused this way.
all of a dither; all of a tremble; all-of-a-Kind Family; all of the time; all of a sudden; all of the same blood; all of a flutter; all of a flap; all the fun of a Bahamas cruise; all of a boat; all of pole sitter; all of a secret life; all of the latest;
In my humble opinion “all” and “of” are mandatory attribute of the phrases in question. There is a change of articles “a” or “the” only. Although, I give a gentle hint that I am not an expert on English but only an self-educated layman, I have the feeling that I am on the right way.
On the contrary, if you use "all + an emotional/physical state" the "of" is not required in accepted common usage, nor can I see a real grammatical need of it in this context. Try googling "all a dither" and "all of a dither" and you will see, or "all of a tremble" and "all a tremble".
Your examples using "the" are very different grammatically and in meaning to the kind of phrases we are discussing and are thus not really usefully comparable, I think.
@birdeen - I wonder if the origin of these phrases is possibly related to a slightly obscure use of "a-" as a prefix meaning "in the act of":
a- - Dictionary definition and pronunciation - Yahoo! Education
in the same way that words like ablaze/agape/aglow were created?
We would use "all" with those in an emphatic sense, or if attempting to be flowery or poetic.
"The fire was all ablaze and the room was as cosy as could be."
"Her expression was all aglow with love and tenderness."
Maybe in time we'll see the single word "adither" listed as an adjective in dictionaries?