Today is Saturday, August 19, 2017

Some better words today, and thats somewhat better

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By ANNE DONNELL

Is it “some better” or “somewhat better” or either one?  I think it’s “somewhat better.”  Am I right?-Somewhat of a Reader!

Why are there so many twists and turn in the road of life or merely in the answer to this question?  The question today is straight forward; the answer, not. In 1911 Robert Herrick New Composition and Rhetoric for Schools, (online) page 148, says, “The pronoun ‘some’ is often incorrectly used for the adverb ‘somewhat.’  ‘He is some better’ should be ‘He is somewhat better.’”  Josephine Turck Baker affirms this, but in 1920. (The Correct Word).  1909 “The Writer” agrees, and 1874 brings the voice of Noble Butler (A Practical and Critical Grammar of the English Language). In agreement.

BUT, maybe we need language advice closer to the twenty-first century. Enter, not online but in solid, hold-in-your-hands paper, Merriam-Webster’s Concise Dictionary of English Usage.  2002. I quote (page 667). “A favorite with usage writers for more than a century has been the use of some in the sense of ‘somewhat.’ It can be found as early as 1869 and as recently as 1988, and probably more recently [like us, right now]. Evidence in the OED [Oxford English Dictionary] suggests that the usage has two sources. [At this point I’m willing to say they’re the Tigris and the Euphrates.]  …Both [one British, not dialect, the other Scots and northern English dialect] were imported to America, and the outbreak of comment in the later 19th century was apparently in reaction to the popular 19th century American usage…

“The only use in which somewhat is virtually certain to substitute smoothly [for some] is the one where some precedes a comparative…[then sites an example by no less than E.B. White, using “some better” in a letter. (E. B. White, Elwyn Brooks White, American 1899-1985, author of Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and co-author of The Elements of Style – without which no home should be, latest version 2005, illustrated)]

“Our most recent evidence shows very few examples of this construction in writing, in spite of its being mentioned in almost every usage book since … 1869.”

So it seems that well meaning educators have been passing on what they were taught for quite some time, but it doesn’t reflect what has actually happened in our language. And don’t start with the teachers-don’t-live-in-the-real-world business; there’s nothing more “real” than the halls and restrooms of any American school. Go there and see for yourself.

CONCLUSION – say it either way:  “some better” or “somewhat better.” I’ll be saying the latter because I’m so old I remember the War of 1812.

OK, some fun -- ONLINE DEPARTMENT. “Interesting Definitions” (Thanks, MH) •ADULT: A person who has stopped growing at both ends and is now growing in the  middle.• BEAUTY PARLOR: A place where women curl up and  dye.• CANNIBAL: Someone who is  fed up with people.• CHICKENS: The only animals you eat before they are born and after they are  dead.• COMMITTEE:A body that keeps minutes and  wastes hours.• DUST: Mud with the  juice squeezed out. • EGOTIST: Someone who is usually me-deep in conversation. • HANDKERCHIEF: Cold storage.• INFLATION: Cutting money in half without damaging the  paper.• MOSQUITO: An insect that  makes you like flies better.• SECRET: Something you tell to one person at a time.• TOOTHACHE: The pain that drives you to  extraction • TOMORROW: One of the  greatest labor saving devices of today.• YAWN:  • An honest opinion openly expressed.• WRINKLES: Something other people have, similar to my character  lines.

BW (Bigtime Word) keratin – a substance found in nails and hair. Well, all you nail chewers, you’ve got keratin on your lips.

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