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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And right now, a longtime friend of Mother Jones has pledged an incredibly generous gift to inspire—and double—giving from online readers. That's huge! Because you can see that our fall fundraising drive is well behind the $325,000 we need to raise. So if you agree that in-depth, fiercely independent journalism matters right now, please support our work and help us raise the money it takes to keep Mother Jones charging hard. Your gift, and all online donations up $94,000 total, will be matched and go twice as far—but only until the November 9 deadline.

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