Do we say "a man of many brains" or "a man of

Bius   Mon Jun 18, 2007 6:05 am GMT
Do we say "a man of many brains" or "a man of much brains"?
Guest   Mon Jun 18, 2007 7:10 am GMT
Either way sounds weird. That isn't a normal expression. If I had to use the word "brains" to say that a man was smart, I would say "He has a lot of brains."
Bridget   Mon Jun 18, 2007 10:29 am GMT
The second one.
Guest   Mon Jun 18, 2007 10:41 am GMT
It might be better to use "mind" rather than "brain" -- "a man with a great mind".
M56   Mon Jun 18, 2007 12:36 pm GMT
"It is easier to see errors if HTML tags are in lower case. Similarly, it doesn't take a bear of much brain at all to notice that typing tags in all upper case requires more effort, and more attention. Effort and attention are too scarce to squander on whims that lead to lower quality."

of much brain
of little brain

Both idiomatic English.
M56   Mon Jun 18, 2007 12:38 pm GMT
"But I can't write of Garibaldi this morning, so anxious we are after an unpleasant despatch yesterday. He is a hero, and has led a forlorn hope out to Sicily, to succeed for Italy, or to fail for himself. It's 'imprudence,' if he fails: if otherwise, who shall praise him enough? it's salvation and glory."

Title: The Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Volume II

Author: Elizabeth Barrett Browning
furrykef   Mon Jun 18, 2007 4:45 pm GMT
"Many brains" would imply more than one brain. While I can see how that might be used as a metaphor, that isn't something an English speaker is likely to say. "A man of many brains" could just as easily refer to a schizophrenic as it could to a genius. ;)

I wouldn't say "of much brain" is idiomatic English in the sense that it's a common expression, because it isn't. Google gives few hits for "of much brain" (in quotes) and almost none of them fit this context. "Of much brains" doesn't yield many relevant hits either, although it sounds more natural to me than "of much brain". If google yields few hits for an exact phrase in quotes, you can be certain that it is not a common expression.

In any case, it would be better to rephrase it. "He has a lot of brains", as suggested above; "a man of much intelligence"; "a man with a great mind"; "a genius"... there are many different ways to convey the idea. The phrase "a lot of brains" is rather colloquial, but the others could be used in any situations.

- Kef
M56   Mon Jun 18, 2007 9:18 pm GMT
Kef, do you also reject:

a man of much courage
a man of much spunk
a woman of much intellect
a woman of much influence
a man of much political experience
a woman of much resolution
a topic of much debate
a boy of much promise
a girl of much beauty
a mother of much character
a woman of much consequence
M56   Mon Jun 18, 2007 9:20 pm GMT
<I wouldn't say "of much brain" is idiomatic English in the sense that it's a common expression, because it isn't.>

Does idiomatic imply common or frequent?

Which definition of "idiomatic" are you using?

This is mine:

1a. Peculiar to or characteristic of a given language.
Guest   Mon Jun 18, 2007 9:20 pm GMT
M56, you are a not a man of "much brain", are you? Those are all commonly used phrases, while "much brain" isn't used by anyone.
Pos   Mon Jun 18, 2007 9:39 pm GMT
I sometimes wonder if Furrykey is weel read or just a nonnative speaker pretending to be a native:


"Isobel, by her own admission a woman of too much brain and too little beauty, is a spinster devoted to keeping her wayward family out of trouble. To Nathan, however, she is beauty, hope, and salvation in one tempestuous package, and he is not above blackmail to coerce her into his world."
M56   Mon Jun 18, 2007 9:41 pm GMT
Kef seems to think that "idiomatic English" means the English that Kef knows.
furrykef   Mon Jun 18, 2007 9:42 pm GMT
I don't reject any of those phrases, but "of much brain" does not fit the established pattern. All of those things can be used with comparative terms like "more" or "less" as well: more intellect, less experience, more courage, less beauty... all of these sound perfectly normal. But not "more brain" or "less brain". If I say "He has more brain than you do," it sounds very odd to me. "More brains", in the plural, is possible, so "brains" fits the pattern.

On the other hand, "much brains" doesn't sound good to me because "brains" is plural in form, and "much" isn't used with plurals, which is probably why the original poster asked this particular question in the first place. For instance, if we had to choose between "of much scruples" or "of many scruples", I think the answer would clearly be "many". (It might be an even better idea to reword it, though.) But "of many brains" doesn't work, because, as I said before, it would suggest having more than one brain.

All of the phrases you listed, however, are used much more often than "of much brains" (or "of much brain", for that matter), with the exception of "of much spunk", which gets a mere 4 google hits.

- Kef
M56   Mon Jun 18, 2007 9:42 pm GMT
And for sure he's never read Winnie the Pooh.
Pos   Mon Jun 18, 2007 9:45 pm GMT
<And for sure he's never read Winnie the Pooh. >