(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). – FumbleFingers Jul 17 '13 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. Jul 18 '13 at 0:09
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    @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. Jul 18 '13 at 0:12
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    @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. Jul 18 '13 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 Jul 18 '13 at 15:43

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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