what’s the difference in meaning between an adjective and the structure “noun + of + article + noun”?


Did you hire that clown of a teacher?


Did you hire that clownish teacher?


My idiotic friend


My idiot of a friend?


The two variants of each example you give are more or less synonyms, but the structures with of a are more informal and convey more about the person who uses it.

Of a is an idiom which can also be combined with other parts of speech, not only with nouns:

US, informal
—used to indicate that someone or something is a particular type of person or thing:

  • her idiot of a husband [noun + of a + noun]
  • It is not that much of a problem. [adverb + of a + noun]
  • How big of a piece do you want? [adjective + of a + noun] (M-W)

As for clownish teacher and my idiotic friend, they are less informal and more neutral. The structures with of a also point to feelings in the speaker such as anger, irony, irritation. It can also express positive feelings like admiration:

  • an angel of a girl [an angelic girl]
  • a beauty of a woman [a beautiful woman]
  • a mountain of a man [a man as tall as a mountain]

Source : Link , Question Author : Askeladd , Answer Author : fev

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