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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It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you’ll agree is worth supporting.

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