"or so"

Jesse Sheidlower jester at PANIX.COM
Mon Sep 8 21:12:01 UTC 2008

On Mon, Sep 08, 2008 at 01:56:12PM -0700, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
> In my Standard Idiolect of English, the phrase "or so" means "approximately but at least." So you could have knocked me down with a dodo feather when I read the following:
> 2008 Roberta Frank, "Afterword," in Burton Raffel, trans. _Beowulf_ (N.Y.: Signet) 141:
> The vivid rendering of _Beowulf_ by Burton Raffel [published in 1963] has held up well over the past half century or so."
> I got news for you, Roberta Frank, Marie Borroff Professor of English at Yale University! 1963 is not fifty years ago "or so." It's forty-five years ago and, by God, it's going to stay that way!
> Does anybody here feel any different?

Yes. It doesn't have that nuance to me; _or so_ is just
'approximately' in my idiolect.

Jesse Sheidlower

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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