Sorry about the time off. It was a completely unnecessary hiatus, but if you ever needed to know how long you could go without paying your Dreamhost bill before the plug was pulled, the answer is about six months. Also, if you ever needed to know when it was going to happen, the answer is, “Right after you just spent almost everything you’ve got on new tires.”
Check out the number of Google blogsearch hits you get when you search for the phrase somewhat of a, as in He’s somewhat of a chauvinist. Now check out the number of Google blogsearch hits you get when you search for the phrase something of a, as in She’s something of a busybody. As of this writing, the somethings outnumber the somewhats by about 428,000 to 179,000. Are the two interchangeable, or is one of them correct?
Let’s consider how the words are used otherwise. Something is clearly a word one uses as a noun, as in I seem to have misplaced something. What are you looking for? I’m looking for something.
Somewhat is used to modify (that is, to give more information about) an adjective. How hungry are you? Somewhat hungry. How jealous is he? Somewhat jealous. As you know, an adjective modifies (that is, gives more information about) a noun. That’s a car! That’s an expensive car! That’s a somewhat expensive car!
In these examples, expensive modifies car (it gives us an idea of the cost of the car), while somewhat modifies expensive (it tells us how expensive).
You get bonus points if you remembered that when a word modifies an adjective, it serves as an adverb. However, if you didn’t know that (and still don’t), it’s okay, as long as you remember that when you’re talking about a person, place, or thing, use something of a. Here are a few examples, so you can see it correctly at work.
- California is something of a laid-back state.
- Julia Stiles is something of a talented-yet-unproven actress.
- That bedroom of yours is something of a disaster area.
Do you see how something of a modifies all of laid-back state?
Of course, you can rearrange these sentences just slightly, and you’ll be able to use somewhat, but not somewhat of a, which is just about always incorrect.
- California is somewhat laid-back.
- Julia Stiles is somewhat talented.
- That bedroom of yours is somewhat disastrous.
Yes, the meanings are changed ever so slightly, but at least you’re correct now, right?
Now, who’s volunteering to click over to 179,000 blogs in order to leave comments linking to this entry? Anyone?