I Am Somewhat Disturbed by the Use of “Somewhat Of”

UPDATE: It turns out that in this case I’m the one who’s Just. Plain. Wrong. More details here.

I usually wait for weekends to air my language peeves, but here’s one that cropped up today. It’s from a car review in the LA Times that mentions a couple of safety-related changes that have been made to the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550:

The car now sports a blunt, upright front bumper and grille….The hood itself also sits higher because more space is now mandated between it and the engine underneath. This provides somewhat of a cushioned landing for the unfortunate soul you’re relocating from the crosswalk.

Wrong! It should be “something of a cushioned landing.” Or should it? This is the dilemma of the hardcore descriptivist, which I mostly am. At what point does a formerly incorrect usage become so widespread that it’s time to accept it? As I often do, I turn to the Google Ngram viewer for guidance:

As you can see, use of somewhat of has doubled since the mid-90s. It’s catching on! However, it’s still only a tenth of something of. In a simple Google search of both phrases, something of is about four times more common than somewhat of.

So I’m willing to say that, for now at least, this usage remains Just. Plain. Wrong. Ten lashes to the Times copy desk. Anybody want to take the other side?

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.