woulda, coulda, shoulda

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Alternative forms[edit]


woulda, coulda, shoulda

  1. An expression of dismissiveness or disappointment concerning a statement, question, explanation, course of action, or occurrence involving hypothetical possibilities, uncertain facts, or missed opportunities.[1] (This stems from expressing that someone could have, would have and/or should have done something)
    • 1995 November 17, A. M. Rosenthal, “The Great Botch-Up”, in New York Times, retrieved 16 June 2015:
      President Clinton . . . had his clear shot at health-care reform, if we need it, he and his wife, but they blew it. As Mrs. Clinton might say, woulda coulda shoulda.
    • 2006 February 21, Mike Rowbottom, “Retirement talk works wonders for Dorfmeister”, in Independent, UK, retrieved 16 June 2015:
      Rahlves described the team's overall skiing performance here as, "woulda, shoulda, coulda—all that stuff. It sucks—we definitely came up very short."
    • 2008 July 7, David Van Biema, Tim McGirk, “Was Jesus' Resurrection a Sequel?”, in Time, retrieved 16 June 2015:
      [S]uch a contentious reading of the 87-line tablet depends on creative interpretation of a smudged passage, making it the latest entry in the woulda/coulda/shoulda category of possible New Testament artifacts.
    • 2014 December 18, Doug Smith, “Three things to ponder from easy Raptors win”, in Toronto Star, Canada, retrieved 18 June 2015:
      [H]e was talking about last night’s game and what it would have meant to have this roster last spring. . . .
      Shoulda, coulda, woulda” he started. “If ifs and buts were candies and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas, right?”

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  1. ^ Cf. William Safire ("On Language," New York Times, May 15, 1994): "The order of words in this delicious morsel of dialect varies with the user. . . . In this rhyming compound, a triple elision does the hat trick: although each elision expresses something different, when taken together, the trio conveys a unified meaning. Shoulda, short for should have (and not should of, which lexies call a variant but I call a mistake), carries a sense of correctness or obligation; coulda implies a possibility, and woulda denotes conditional certainty, an oxymoron: the stated intent to have taken an action if only something had not intervened. . . . Taken together, the term means 'Spare me the useless excuses.'"

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