(a) There were holes in Shakespeare's erudition.

In contexts like the above, well-educated Italians, as far as I know, wouldn't use the word "holes" because it seems a bit informal.

A more appropriate Italian word would be lacune, which, according to the dictionary I use, is translated with "gap" (also cf. English lacune, lacuna, lacunes, and lacunae).

In English it appears that a more formal version of the above sentence is:

(b) There were gaps in Shakespeare's erudition.

So, is (b) more formal than (a)? Or, is there a more appropriate word to use in the place of "holes" to have a more formal sentence? Or, lastly, is this not a real problem that it make sense to think about?

  • 1
    I don't think this is a matter of formal/informal - it's just that idiomatically we don't normally speak of "holes" in things like education, employment history, knowledge, etc. Gaps would be a common choice, but I must say it sounds odd to describe erudition like that anyway. It's an abstract concept that we might metaphorically reference as "broad" or "vast", but to me it seems a stretch too far to imagine it as some kind of sheet with holes in it ("gaps" evokes the passage of time, so it works for education better than for erudition). Commented Jul 17, 2013 at 23:54
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    I don't think lacunae would be a good choice at all; I'd use holes before lacunae, as lacuna is quite rare and not widely known.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jul 18, 2013 at 0:09
  • 2
    @Fumble: We may not use "holes" in that context, but we do speak of "holes" in things like arguments, defense, plans, and stories.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jul 18, 2013 at 0:12
  • 1
    @Fumble: In my lifetime and on my continent, the Ngram is a virtual dead heat. More importantly, though, conversationally, I believe I've heard hole more often. (Data isn't as readily accessible, although two Google searches favored "hole in the argument" by more than 3 to 1. Of course, I didn't bother to examine the millions of results with scrutiny – but it did make me wonder if this might be a BrE/AmE thing.)
    – J.R.
    Commented Jul 18, 2013 at 9:14
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    @WendiKidd As a fellow American, I feel like a hole in your story is an inconsistency, while a gap in your story is an unaccounted-for period of time. Does that sound right to you?
    – Daniel
    Commented Jul 18, 2013 at 15:43

1 Answer 1


Well, no one has answered so far. I'm going to give it a shot.

  • "There were inconsistencies in Shakespeare's erudition."

inconsistencies:There were many inconsistencies in your proposal


  • "Shakespeare's erudition was not wholly complete."

    Wholly has the the same sound as "holey"

wholly:The accusation is wholly without foundation

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