Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
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Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

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Evolution of Exactly the Same

When an why did “exactly the same” become “the exact same” and more recently “the same exact”?

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Judging by Ngram, 'the exact same' started being used more often around 1970, as did to a much lesser extent 'the same exact', but 'exactly the same' is still by far the most common. The Ngram figures also seem to suggest that this modern upsurge is a largely American phenomenon. The percentage for 'the exact same' is roughly three times higher in American books than in British ones, and 'the same exact' hardly registers in British books.

But I have to say that there are plenty of British examples of 'exact same' around, too:

"Rather embarrassingly for Labour, Cameron and Miliband have the exact same levels of trust in Scotland: 23 per cent.", New Statesman

"These applications covered the exact same area as the single application for the 18 homes.", The Scottish Parliament

In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage, the first example is from 1973, but there's one for 'the same identical method' from 1947. 'Exact same', incidentally, has been used by respected writers, and in respected places, including by John Updike in the New Yorker (1982).

But we can do much better than that. At Google Books there are 43 examples of 'the exact same' from the first half of the nineteenth century, including several from British publications:

"and the carpet is the exact same pattern of the one in the dress-drawing-room of Eglintoun castle", The Edinburgh Monthly Magazine, 1820

"No two translators could have hit upon the exact same form of expression", the Quarterly Review, 1834

The earliest example at Google Books, is from The Bee, published in Edinburgh in 1722:

"but he suspects Arcticus, who is a scotsman, will not admit it to be of the exact same import with the other."

There are even more examples of "the same exact" from 1800 to 1850, just over 90, and we even can go back to 1685 :

"though not eve'y where and in all places according to the same exact time", A Complete History of England, 1685

"Our Men answered them by Plattoons, with the same exact Order as if they had been only excrcising.", The History of John Duke of Marlborough, 1742

So there's nothing new about the expressions themselves, although they have always been minority usages - from books published before 1800, Google Books have perhaps 10 examples of 'the exact same' and maybe 18 for 'the same exact', but over 200 for 'exactly the same'. What is relatively new is their increasing popularity, especially of 'the exact same'.

There's quite a lot of discussion about 'the exact same' on the web, at, amomgst other places, Grammarphobia and Stack Exchange, and on this forum in 2006:

As to why? That's a trickier one to answer ? Perhaps because we're already used to things like 'the very same' - "They both arrived at the very same time".

Warsaw Will Oct-31-2014

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I wonder if the Duke meant 'same exact' in the modern sense. Possible he meant that the Order was 'exact', that is, neat and soldierly, just as on exercise.

Skeeter Lewis Oct-31-2014

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@Skeeter Lewis - that's possible for the duke, but unlikely for 'the same exact time', I would have thought. But I grant you that in many cases 'exact' could be taken to mean 'precise', such as this one:

"And yet the bee had been for thousands of years, in all countries, unerringly working according to this fixed rule, choosing the same exact angle of 120 degrees for the inclination of the sides of its little room",1851

But this one seems to me more like 'exactly the same':

"appeared to me the same exact hue", 1856

But point taken; maybe I got a bit carried away on 'the same exact'. But I stand by the older use of "the exact same":,cd_min:1800,cd_max:1899

Warsaw Will Oct-31-2014

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It is with great amusement that I read this thread. Having spent my work week hearing comments such as "I ain't gots no pencil" passing for language, the level of rage reached by many of these commenters is refreshing. It's Jerry Springer for intellectuals. Not exactly the same, perhaps, but similar. I thank you all!

vwmoll Nov-16-2014

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@vmoll - I seem to be missing something here. Up until you there had only been two commenters on this thread, Skeeter Lewis and me, neither of whom have expressed the slightest bit of rage.

As to "I ain't gots no pencil" of course it's language - it may not be your language and it may not be my language, and it may not be appropriate for the classroom, for example. But it's certainly language, no doubt following the rules of, and understood by, the dialect group who use it.

"Ain't got" is common in both AmE and BrE dialects, although "gots"is a new one on me, and standard English is probably almost unique in not allowing double negatives. Standard English they ain't, but you can often hear them on the streets of London.

Warsaw Will Nov-16-2014

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Welcome to the forum. If you care about the language, you'll fit in seamlessly. Yes - you're absolutely right - we can get tetchy from time to time. You'll get used to it.

Skeeter Lewis Nov-17-2014

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Thanks, Skeeter Lewis!

And @ Warsaw Will,
I understand your confusion...the thread that I THOUGHT I was on, on the same subject and with the same title, was full of rather delightful rants dating back to 2006! Not sure what happened there, but very obviously I'm a newcomer. I will learn.

And you're quite right, "ain't gots no" is indeed language. I stand corrected there.

vwmoll Nov-17-2014

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