- I am broke
In slang it means to be without money, but how would I say (facetiously) that my economic situation is worse today?
a. I am broker today
b. I am more broke today
Solution b) sounds less ambiguous to my ears because in a) broker means someone who buys and sells goods or assets for others. And it also sounds like (to me) someone who is now more broken in spirit than before. Yet, grammatically speaking, broker should be correct:
broke –> broker –> the brokest
predicative Having completely run out of money.
English Oxford Dictionaries
What is the comparative form of “be broke” in colloquial speech?
Is it “broker” or “more broke”?
This question is inspired by a quote from the novel Educated by Tara Westover, which was posted on ELL as
What’s the meaning of “be broker than the Ten Commandments”?
Both comparative forms are in use. It seems that more broke is the older usage, but more extensive research–which I can’t do at the moment–would need to confirm this (not that the answer depends on which usage is older).
I’m broker today.
could theoretically mean I’m the one who is the broker today, with broker meaning the one “who buys and sells goods or assets for others” (ODO). For the lack of an article before the count noun, see Omission of “the” in “elected him president” and “made captain”.
But the meaning or intended meaning of statements are usually flushed out in context. And Google Books offers plenty of examples of broker as the comparative for broke, including:
The Fed and US government would like to nationalize banks here shortly. That should be truly terrifying. You know, getting loans from someone broker than you.
(Here’s what you do, 2009)
We had everything back but we were broker than we were in the welfare days.
Hollins was broker than usual.
(Lads – the seventies, 2013)
The only travelers I see on this road for two weeks are even broker than I am.
A fortune in stones, and he was broker than the panhandler on the corner.
As one contractor said: “He didn’t want a lot of money, just enough for bread, but at the time I was broker than him. I took out my wallet and I only had $30 in it, and he said to keep it
On the other hand, there are comparatives with more broke. So, in the end, I guess you can pick your poison:
I was more broke than ever. Think that’s odd for a financial adviser?
Most people I know are even more broke than I am. That would suck. To be more broke than I am. I need to figure out a way to make more money.
(Peeling apart, 2006)
Well, suffice it to say, I leave the shop with the skirt and the sickening thought that I am now even more broke than when I first started rehearsing.
So, it seems there is use of both forms. Is one “more right” or “righter” than the other? Only a prescriptive grammarian would insist on that.
I can’t include exhaustive research at the moment, but it seems that more broke is the older usage. For example:
However, by 1934, at the depth of the depression, he was more broke than he ever had been before.
(Collier’s magazine, 1950).
If someone insists that English was spoken better 70 years ago, then they might produce this, and a handful of other search returns, for evidence.