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

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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?

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Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

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