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Within a paper I am writing, someone asked me to check the correctness of the following expression:

"x and yet more x"

used in the following sentence, discussing urban sprawl:

"Despite all the efforts, sprawl and yet more sprawl remain the reality in most places around the world."

Now that I read it, I have a question: shouldn't it be "more and yet more sprawl" instead of "sprawl and yet more sprawl"?

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    X and yet more X is really just a slightly stylised alternative to endless X[s] Oct 12 '20 at 11:52
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The construction you quote is correct, and generally means a surprisingly unvarying situation, typically (but not always) with a negative connotation. ‘Dreariness and yet more dreariness’ would mean that once you have (presumably reluctantly) done the dreary thing, assuming that change will then come, it is actually followed by another dreary thing. And another. And another.

The first mention of X identifies the experience of identifying what X is. Then, ‘and yet more X’ describes the realisation that X now seems to be unending, perhaps in a self-perpetuating cycle.

In this context, ‘yet more’ is equivalent to ‘even more’ but with a mildly dramatic air. Something happened, which was unexpected enough in itself. And then, however improbably, even more of the same just carried on happening.

The sense certainly can be positive, indicating unexpected delight: ‘I couldn’t believe it as friends and yet more friends flooded through the door.’ Most often, however, this construction is used to suggest exasperation with a condition that you would expect (and perhaps prefer) to change in some way.

In your example, then, the writer is saying that whenever you think you must now have seen the realistic extent of urban sprawl (which the passage implies was undesirable in the first place), actually you discover that there is yet more sprawl to come.

This, then, is slightly different from ‘more and yet more [something-or-other]’, which would be a perfectly OK description of something simply proliferating. The passage that you quote focuses more dramatically on the specific thing that apparently won’t stop.

If I were to rewrite ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ (the Disney version) I might say, ‘Brooms and yet more brooms trooped in, carrying buckets of water.’ ‘More and more brooms’ just suggests a multitude of things. ‘Brooms and yet more brooms’ emphasises the fact that I didn’t really want unstoppable brooms to begin with.

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  • Thank you, the mildly dramatic air was my intention but after someone asked me to check the expression I had a doubt.
    – ePoQ
    Oct 12 '20 at 12:30
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Authoritative references will probably be hard to find here. I'll offer this analysis:

(1) The expression 'more and yet more' is well established with certain commodities; here are two examples from the internet:

  • The demand, again and yet again, for more and yet more money for expanding artistic needs must be wearying indeed. [AmericanTheatre]
  • We stood, jammed together, suitcases at our feet, rucksacks on our backs, barely able to breathe as more and yet more people crammed onto our bus. [AntheaKnowsBest]

(2) The noun tends to be repeated (and I'd say usually twice) with less usual referents, in proclamations of abundance and often gaiety:

I'd say ?'sprawl and yet more sprawl' is suboptimal on at least one count: 'sprawl' is not the most familiar noun (Google ngrams for 'more and more sprawl', 'more and yet more sprawl', and 'sprawl and yet more sprawl' all flatline), and is (fittingly) rather ugly. So yes I agree that 'more and yet more sprawl' sounds better here. But then I'd probably choose 'inexorably increasing sprawl'. '... remains ....'

In the final analysis, the question hinges on which is deemed to sound better. Neither alternative is unacceptable.

But there are favoured choices. For the expressions 'more and more flies', 'more and yet more flies', 'flies and more flies', and 'flies and yet more flies', Google ngrams show that 'more and more flies' seems three times as common as 'flies and more flies' at the present time. The versions with 'yet' do not register. And with ants and more ants v more and more ants, beetles and more beetles v more and more beetles, only the double-quantifier variants register.

With nominals which are both in common use and connote a happy state, taking 'dancing and more dancing' v 'more and more dancing', these particular variants seem used equally frequently [Google ngrams]

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    I don't agree that sprawl and yet more sprawl is untenable" on any counts. There are plenty of written instances of X and yet more X for sand, flies, rain,... Just because "sprawl" is a fairly uncommon noun doesn't mean it doesn't work fine in the cited context. Oct 12 '20 at 11:59
  • FumbleFingers -- I agree. And I don't even think that 'sprawl' (in the expression 'urban sprawl') is particularly uncommon anyway. Oct 12 '20 at 12:17

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