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Seinfeld, "The Raincoats."

(Jerry and Elaine sitting in the booth)

ELAINE: N-I know they're your parents Jerry an' they're very nice people. But don't you think it's odd, that a thirty-five year old man is going to these lengths to see that someone else's parents are enjoying themselves? I mean don't you find that abnormal?

JERRY: It is a tad askew.

What does it mean here?

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I love this show. Good choice for learning English. Don't forget about learning "regifting", "soup Nazi", and "spongeworthy". –  bittenfig Feb 24 at 20:01
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@bittenfig: Oh, you'd better believe it, buddy. –  Graduate Feb 24 at 20:06
    
@bittenfig, Graduate: That's debatable. The current item (and doubtless many more from the same stable) are written by highly-paid scriptwriters targeting native speakers with what may often be quirky usages intended to amuse. They're definitely not in the business of helping non-native speakers gain insights into "normal, current usages". –  FumbleFingers Feb 24 at 23:32
    
@FumbleFingers: That's true, they do use "slang." But this TV show (at least for me) has a property that overcomes other drawbacks -- it's gripping. It is interesting to watch every episode many times, and then repeat the scenes in your head including what the characters said. And by this repeated process digest the language. –  Graduate Feb 25 at 0:58
    
@Graduate: Well, there's no denying that if something holds your interest at the "foreground" level (the story, for example) you're much more likely to absorb "background" information (specifically for a learner, the language). And of course, even if the language doesn't always reflect current natural usage, sometimes things from TV shows catch on and become far more widespread. But you have to remember it's basically stylised entertainment - no more "natural language" than The Simpsons, or a Bond movie (or my current favourite, Archer). –  FumbleFingers Feb 25 at 4:42

1 Answer 1

up vote 6 down vote accepted

It's the combination of a tad (meaning "a little" or "slightly") and askew (meaning "not quite straight; off to one side or the other"). Here, askew is used figuratively to mean "not quite normal". Jerry is agreeing with Elaine that it is a little bit abnormal.

It is [ [ a tad ] askew ] .

The entire phrase a tad acts like an adverb here, modifying askew. The phrase tad askew does not form a noun phrase, even though it looks like it does. I suspect that this is the source of your confusion.

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I don't think askew is used in this context very often, and suspect the script was written that way for humorous effect. I would usually say, "That's a little strange," (or even, "That's a bit bizarre,") instead of, "That's a tad askew" – unless I was trying to be a tad comical. –  J.R. Feb 24 at 23:27
    
I would say the cited usage is itself "a little bit abnormal", or at least somewhat facetiously "folksy" (as I see J.R. has also commented, before I hit "Add Comment"! :) –  FumbleFingers Feb 24 at 23:29

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