The sheer enormousness
The same NY Times article containing a use of 'as such' that prompted comment from Mark Lieberman at Language Log this morning contains another noteworthy linguistic innovation, this time morphological, that caught my eye. Paragraph 8 begins:
"The problems clearly stem largely from the sheer enormousness of the disaster."
Here, the adjective enormous has been nominalized, but not with its normal nominalizing derivational affix, -ity. Rather, the all-purpose default -ness has been pressed into service. To my eye, it's a classic example of overgeneralization, of the Daddy goed! type, only with derivational morphology. Evidence, methinks, of the productivity of derivation and of its paradigmatic, Elsewhere-Principle nature, and remarkable because of its occurence the the NY Times -- neither the writers nor the editors noticed that the standard 'enormity' might have been called for, in a prescriptive sense.
In a Google fight between 'enormity' and 'enormousness', 'enormity' is the overwhelming victor at 1,920,000 to 28,600 gH, so this regularization is still in its infancy; I wonder if it'll ever catch on. I found this particular case especially interesting because the nominal 'enormousness' is contained within a phrase that I recognize as a collocation, which I guess I'll have to gloss "sheer enorm-NOM", normally "sheer enormity", but in this case, of course, "sheer enormousness". The phrase "sheer enormity" gets 43,000 gH (more even than 'enormousness' by itself), while other, less codified modifiers of 'enormity' are much less common: "great enormity" at 437 gH, "extreme enormity" at 57 gH, "remarkable enormity" at 77. 'Sheer enormousness' does pretty well, considering, at 290 gH. Indeed, the gH ratio of "sheer enormity":"enormity" = 0.02, and the ratio of "sheer enormousness":"enormousness" = 0.01, not too dissimilar.
Given Mark's 'as such' observations together with the use of 'enormousness', seems like these NY Times authors, Jennifer Steinhauer and Eric Lipton, are on the forefront of linguistic innovation.
Update: Chris and q_pheever have brought it to my rather astonished attention that in point of fact, 'enormity' at some point fell into prescriptive disfavor as a simple nominalization of 'enormous', and 'enormousness' was recommended as the appropriate form. See the usage notes from the AHD that Chris has posted in the comments.