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Source: A new Cold War with Russia?

Last week the U.S. House voted overwhelmingly in favor of an anti-Russia resolution so full of war propaganda that it rivals the rhetoric from chilliest era of the Cold War. Ironically, much of the bill condemns Russia for doing exactly what the U.S. government has been doing for years in Syria and Ukraine!

I showed this to an English native speaker and he told me that probably it would sound better if there was "the" but it still might work even if there's none. My questions is this: why is there no article on front of chilliest?

  • at times, articles are ignored by journalists and columnists. – Maulik V Dec 9 '14 at 6:38
  • @CarSmack In Quirk et al., topic 7.84, it says that if a superlative adjective is not attributive, the definite article could be omitted: "Anna is (the) youngest (of all)". But I can't understand whether chilliest in our example is attributive or not. It seems attributive to me. – CowperKettle Dec 9 '14 at 7:12
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    @CopperKettle It is an error, plain and simple. My answer forthcoming. – user6951 Dec 9 '14 at 7:18
  • Ironically, it sounds like an error a Russian would make. But CarSmack's answer explains it. – Ben Kovitz Dec 9 '14 at 7:57
  • Perhaps in headlines, @MaulikV, but not in run-of-the-mill sentences. At least not in the journalism I am used to. – user6951 Dec 9 '14 at 8:18
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The phrase from chilliest era of the Cold War (as used in this context) needs the definite article to be in accord with standard English as used by native speakers in the USA/Canada/the UK/Australia/et al. CNBC printed the story two days after the story first appeared on Ron Paul's website. The simplest explanation is that the definite article got dropped when CNBC printed the story. The result is an error in standard grammar.

Ron Paul's own website has the same paragraph with the same sentence with the definite article the included where it should be. This appears on Ron Paul's website December 7. CNBC apparently picked up the story a couple days later.

So it seems the definite article got dropped in transmission. It is not optonal here.

Last week the US House voted overwhelmingly in favor of an anti-Russia resolution so full of war propaganda that it rivals the rhetoric from the chilliest era of the Cold War. Ironically, much of the bill condemns Russia for doing exactly what the US government has been doing for years in Syria and Ukraine! [emphasis mine]

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Last week the U.S. House voted overwhelmingly in favor of an anti-Russia resolution so full of war propaganda that it rivals the rhetoric from chilliest era of the Cold War.

The noun era is a singular count noun, moreover, it's modified by the phrase of the Cold War and has a superlative adjective attached: the chilliest era. Is it possible to drop an article in this case?

There are instances when we can omit the definite article (and the indefinite) before a superlative adjective (like highest, bravest, most efficient etc.).

Compare:

  1. The smartest boy in our class solved the problem.
  2. We have a lot of smart boys in our class. John is smartest (of all).

In sentence 1, the superlative adjective "smartest" is attached to the noun "boy". It serves as an attribute of the noun boy, and is called an attributive adjective.

Note that the key verb in the sentence, solved, connects to the noun boy.

In sentence 2, the superlative adjective "smartest" is not attributive: it does not connect to a noun directly, although we can add "of all" at the end of the sentence.

Also note that it connects directly to the key verb of the sentence, is. We can even change the word order:

Smartest among our classmates was John.

Such adjectives are called predicative: they are part of the predicate.

But in your example, the chilliest describes the noun phrase era of the Cold War and is clearly an attributive adjective, so the is necessary.

We can try to make it non-attributive:

Chilliest of the Cold War eras was the era during which the US rhetoric was comparable to the war propaganda overfilling the anti-Russian resolution overwhelmingly voted in favor of by the U.S. House last week.

Now, the superlative adjective chilliest connects to the verb was and the use of the article is optional. Only we had to put the whole sentence upon its head.


Reference: Quirk et al., A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language, Topic 7.84, "Article usage with comparatives and superlatives".

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    This is nicely explained. +1 I liked the last chunk of this answer. :) – Maulik V Dec 9 '14 at 8:30

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