Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: sometime (2).

sometime (2). Today: Two More Uses. Part A: As an Adjective Meaning “former.” This is a slightly archaic sense of “sometime”: “my sometime companion.” The word does not properly signify “on-again-off-again” or “occasional” — as it appears to in the following quotation (as suggested by the incorrect use of “sometimes”): “Jack Kemp, the former Congressman and Housing Secretary and a sometimes-supporter [read ‘sometime supporter’] of Mr. Dole, said in a television interview on Saturday that several Republican leaders, including Speaker Newt Gingrich, were planning such a meeting in two weeks.” Katharine Q. Seelye, “A G.O.P. Policy Meeting May Put Pressure on Dole,” N.Y. Times, 15 July 1996, at A8. Language-Change Index — “sometimes” misused for “sometime” (= former): Stage 1. Part B: *”somewhat of a.” This phrasing has traditionally been considered poor because it treats “somewhat” — principally an adverb — as a pronoun. Instead of “Somewhat of a lackluster performance,” write either “a somewhat lackluster performance” or “something of a lackluster performance” E.g.: o “Neuheisel . . . is somewhat [read ‘something’] of a natural when he’s chatting up one of his guys, even with towels flying.” Jack McCallum, “Always a Dull Moment,” Sports Illustrated, 24 Nov. 1997, at 72. o “After all, the Jayhawks had six seniors on last season’s team, . . . making this somewhat [read ‘something’] of a rebuilding season for Kansas.” Josh Barr, “Kansas Shows Its Staying Power,” Wash. Post, 5 Dec. 1997, at B4. Language-Change Index — *”somewhat of an expert” for “something of an expert”: Stage 3. *Invariably inferior forms.
Quotation of the Day: “I wish our clever young poets would remember my homely definitions of prose and poetry; that is, prose = words in their best order; poetry = the best words in the best order.” 1 Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Specimens of Table-Talk 84 (1835).
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