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From novel To Kill A Mockingbird:

I'd soon's kill you as look at you.

What is "soon's" short for? I had found a similar sentence

would as soon do something as look at you

So as soon as can be shortened to soon's as?

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"soon's" is short for "soon as".

"I would as soon as do X as do Y" is an idiom of sorts meaning "I would be just as likely to do X as to do Y". This is usually used to make some humorous comparison between a routine action and some extreme action, like here: "I'd as soon as kill you as look at you", meaning, next time I meet you, I would be just as likely to kill you as to simply look at you. A less dramatic example would be, "I'd as soon as quit as have to work a day like that one again".

It is also said without the second "as": "I would as soon do X as do Y". Like here that would be, "I would as soon kill you as look at you."

Note that "as soon as" also has a more literal meaning: at the instant the event happens. Like, "As soon as Harold arrives, we will begin the meeting." Or, "I'll call you as soon as I arrive in Pittsburgh."

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  • 1
    You might want to answer the last sentence directly as well, where they seem to be asking whether “soon’s” is a standard contraction they should start using in their own writing. Aug 13 '15 at 18:28
  • @SevenSidedDie Fair enough: The answer is "no", this is not a standard contraction. It's recognizable but would be considered very informal, perhaps slang or dialect.
    – Jay
    Aug 13 '15 at 19:12
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It's a cut-down representation of...

I would as soon [as] kill you as look at you
(i.e. - I would kill you as soon/easily/casually as [I would] look at you1)

...where although the second [as] is grammatically incorrect, it's not uncommon in uneducated and/or dialectal speech. Note that although in "standard" speech it's quite normal to reduce the vowel sound in as to a neutral schwa, it's not normal to delete it completely (so I'd as soon die's diet is never valid).


1 This is the standard "matched pair" construction (OP's "ungrammatical" cited usage has three as's).

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  • You mean "I would as soon as kill you as look at you" is grammatically incorrect (though valid in speech) and would be more formal to say "I would as soon kill you as look at you"?
    – CYC
    Aug 13 '15 at 14:33
  • And "I'd soon's kill you as look at you." is in general a invalid speech since it misses a in as completely? (It makes sense as it was said by an uneducated child.)
    – CYC
    Aug 13 '15 at 14:37
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    No - it's invalid because (putting aside the elision of the vowel) there are three instances of the word as, when they should always appear as a matched pair in this construction. Whether "dialectal" is the same as "uneducated" is a moot point, but from your perspective as a learner, you would be well advised not to copy the usage yourself. Aug 13 '15 at 14:43
  • You might want to answer the last sentence directly as well, where they seem to be asking whether “soon’s” is a standard contraction they should start using in their own writing. Aug 13 '15 at 18:28
  • @SevenSidedDie: I think that would open things up a bit too much! I did edit to reflect the fact that we don't normally dispense with the vowel completely in either instance of as in this matched pair usage. But the reality is that although it's an extremely unusual eye dialect representation, lots of perfectly articulate educated speakers are quite capable of responding to When can we start? with Soon's you like! For the most part I think learners should avoid using contractions unless they're repeating forms they often hear/see many other people use. They're easy to get wrong. Aug 13 '15 at 19:10

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