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Datawank much? December 8, 2010 12:35 PM   Subscribe

Here, because I didn't sleep well last night, is a look at the use of the rhetorical device "[verb/adjective/descriptor] much?" on Metafilter. Specifically, on the blue, the grey, and the green.

This particular rhetorical construction, generally used as a sarcastic/ironic inflection of an assertion (e.g. "Bitter much?" as way of saying "You are, in fact, bitter."), is ubiquitous enough to have an entry in the OED (as noted by languagehat over on his blog), and pops up all over the place online, both in credulous use and as fodder for peevery from folks who dislike the usage.

Metafilter is no exception, in either respect; the much? construction has been derided on at least a couple of occasions (likely more, I haven't actively looking in part because its hard to know how to search for references to it), and has, as the files above show, been used a great deal over the years, particularly on the blue.

Some notes:

- The files are sorted alphabetically without respect for case; I did my best to filter out false positives (mostly by filtering out prefix collocations like "...a bit much?", "too much?", "pretty much?"; the full set of stop words I used is [so, too, how, very, pretty, that, bit, little, doing, to, as, know, it, out]) but there are a few of them still in there. An intensifier between the stop word and the "much?" is a common culprit, as in "so fucking much".

- The regex used to generate this gets the job done but isn't fancy. There are odd bits of leading punctuation on some items that I didn't bother to strip out, and while I managed to trim most of the content before and after the key "foo much?" phrases out, in some cases that didn't work well and there's a little (or a lot) of chaff stuck to an entry.

- In some cases an item appears more than once in the file because it is quoted in a response; in other cases, it appears more than once because different people (or potentially the same person on different occasions) happened to use the same formation independently. Common rhetorical touchstones ("troll", ad hominem", "strawman") are prominent examples of this latter case.

- Each citation's "much?" links to the comment it's taken from, if you'd like to see a given usage in context. Note that for completeness of the catalog of uses I didn't exclude deleted comments from this search, so in some cases the context will not in fact be waiting on the other end. My impression is that this is a pretty small proportion of the listed comments, though that proportion may be a bit higher in the askme section since sarcastic rhetoric is more likely to get nixed on the green than elsewhere.

- Total citations to date for the blue, the grey, and the green respectively are 845, 188, and 195. That count includes the quotation-as-false-positive cites mentioned above, however, and so is somewhat inflated. (I suspect the metatalk count is going to spike up a bit farther today.)
posted by cortex to MetaFilter-Related at 12:35 PM (94 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

Productive during insomnia much?
posted by mathowie (staff) at 12:36 PM on December 8, 2010 [22 favorites]


Huh. No "watch television much?".
posted by Melismata at 12:38 PM on December 8, 2010


I blame Friends.
posted by paulina961 at 12:41 PM on December 8, 2010


Next time you get insomnia, do a rundown on all uses of "Is this something I would need [something] to understand?"
posted by Drastic at 12:42 PM on December 8, 2010 [7 favorites]


Oh, and there's a carriage return missing in the blue before "Hyperbole much?".
posted by Melismata at 12:43 PM on December 8, 2010


Drastic, I've got a whole rainy-day file of search ideas along those lines. I've added that.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:43 PM on December 8, 2010


MUCHas graçias!

Seriously, this is too cool.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:45 PM on December 8, 2010


I blame Friends.

I do so NOT blame Friends.
posted by bondcliff at 12:48 PM on December 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Is this something that I would need cortex to eventually run a regular expression analysis on "Is this something that I would need [something] to understand?" if so, hi future cortex to understand?
posted by Kwine at 12:51 PM on December 8, 2010 [18 favorites]


I do SO not blame Friends.
posted by misterbrandt at 12:57 PM on December 8, 2010


Much! Have difficulty using rhetorical constructions.
posted by Wolfdog at 12:59 PM on December 8, 2010


Much much?
posted by blue_beetle at 12:59 PM on December 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Rhetorical device much?
posted by Eideteker at 1:00 PM on December 8, 2010


Worst of the list:
"Amiritefilter, much?"
posted by naju at 1:01 PM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow. Just at first glance, I'm really in awe at how productive "much" is. It can appear with states, actions, nouns, verbs, in different tenses/aspects, punctuation, and on. It also seems to verb nouns in many instances. It has a pragmatic distancing function as well (separating the speaker from the proposition/topic that they are responding to). In that sense, the "much" tag carries some heavy evaluation. Also, discourse framing.

I also notice right off how the distribution of use of straightforward "much" vs. new, sarcastic "much" varies based on context. AskMe, which has the most stringent norms of the 3, clearly shows less new "much" and much more straightforward "much", as in "Anyway...Does she happen to lick at her rear much?" Joking aside, that distribution difference across the subsites can easily make a case for how we understand pragmatic norms in text-based environments. Also, for the very existence of this new form, now very much entrenched in modern discourse. Cortex, if you typed up these data results and you have something fun and easily publishable in American Speech or elsewhere. (Maybe that's not your idea of fun, but it is mine...I only wish I had half the search/data-mining chops you got.)
posted by iamkimiam at 1:01 PM on December 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I figured it decended from Heathers in 1988, and via Buffy into stardom, but 1978. Who knew?
posted by bonehead at 1:03 PM on December 8, 2010


Semantic satiation much?
posted by Rhomboid at 1:06 PM on December 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Great, now "much" has stopped looking like a word. Semantic satiate, much?
posted by knave at 1:08 PM on December 8, 2010


Not cool, Rhomboid.
posted by knave at 1:09 PM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


much of a muchness
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:09 PM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


much of a muchness, much?
posted by Kattullus at 1:11 PM on December 8, 2010


Here is a chunk of false positives in the H's:
How did you know I loved Spaulding Grey this much?
How long before we all die off as a species because we've screwed up our DNA too damn much?
How long before we all die off as a species because we've screwed up our DNA too damn much?
How the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks [trying not to offend here] can a word on your shirt bother anyone *that* much?
However, that's not saying much?
hpsell: do you get your ass kicked much?
My eye was drawn to that section because of the non-false positive Ho Chi Minh Trail much?
posted by ND¢ at 1:14 PM on December 8, 2010


bonehead: I figured it decended from Heathers in 1988, and via Buffy into stardom, but 1978. Who knew?

Yeah, I totally figured that, like like, like, that usage of much came from Valleyspeak, but 1978 New York suggests some completely different origin. Yiddish maybe?
posted by Kattullus at 1:14 PM on December 8, 2010


My favorite kind of much is Moose Much.
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:17 PM on December 8, 2010


There's a fun string of false positives in the askme file, too, that read like a wierd almost lyrical interrogation:

Do you cook much?
Do you dance much?
Do you go barefoot much?
Do you go to small shows much?
Do you hear much?
Do you play video games much?
Do you read much?
Do you travel internationally with your cellphone much?
Do you use your top gear much?

posted by cortex (staff) at 1:22 PM on December 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


God you see what happens when you left the minecraft server go down?
posted by The Whelk at 1:25 PM on December 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Much ado about much.
posted by googly at 1:29 PM on December 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thank you very, much?
posted by molecicco at 1:29 PM on December 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Much ado about nothing.
posted by Cheminatrix at 1:32 PM on December 8, 2010



There's a fun string of false positives in the askme file, too, that read like a wierd almost lyrical interrogation:

Do you cook much?
Do you dance much?
Do you go barefoot much?
Do you go to small shows much?
Do you hear much?
Do you play video games much?
Do you read much?
Do you travel internationally with your cellphone much?
Do you use your top gear much?


Those are pretty much the question I ask on a first date. Ideal answers: YNYYNYYNY
posted by auto-correct at 1:33 PM on December 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


One less thing to blame on Winnoa Ryder, at least. Good news!
posted by bonehead at 1:34 PM on December 8, 2010


Marcle Much?
posted by Abiezer at 1:36 PM on December 8, 2010


Introducing false positives in case this report ever gets run again much?
posted by quin at 1:37 PM on December 8, 2010


Do you hear much? ...

Sounds like a Dr. Seuss rhyme.
posted by Melismata at 1:38 PM on December 8, 2010


Ad hominem much?
Ad hominem much?
Ad hominem much?
Ad hominem much?
Ad hominem much?
Ad hominem much?
Ad hominem much?
Ad hominem much?
Ad hominem much?
Ad hominem much?
Ad hominem much?
Ad hominem much?


Ad nauseum much?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:39 PM on December 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


How is that doggie in the window, much?
posted by unliteral at 1:41 PM on December 8, 2010


I would love to see these chronologically. More importantly, I'd like to see usage statistics over time. It is my sincere hope that they have fallen.

Thank you.
posted by orville sash at 1:44 PM on December 8, 2010


Thank you very, much? for the Aintree iron.
posted by unliteral at 1:46 PM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Winnoa Ryder

Close cousin to Quinoa Ryder.
posted by Cheminatrix at 1:52 PM on December 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


But with ideal frictionless bearings, the shear force of the moving surface on the tires will result in forward wheel rotation without (any/much?

He's going the distance, he's going for speed.
posted by doublehappy at 2:07 PM on December 8, 2010


Do you use your top gear much?

I only have one, thanks.
posted by fixedgear at 2:09 PM on December 8, 2010


what if a much of a which of a wind
gives the truth to summer's lie;
bloodies with dizzying leaves the sun
and yanks immortal stars awry?
Blow king to beggar and queen to seem
(blow friend to fiend: blow space to time)
-when skies are hanged and oceans drowned,
the single secret will still be man
posted by Skot at 2:21 PM on December 8, 2010


[verb/adjective/descriptor]

Is there a difference between an adjective and a descriptor that I'm missing (aside from the fact that the former is a subset of the latter, which also includes adverbs)?

Redundant much?
posted by Sys Rq at 2:22 PM on December 8, 2010


Much much much too much about "much."

I just didn't much want to know about how much much we see.
posted by bearwife at 2:22 PM on December 8, 2010


Ad nauseum much?

Misspelled much?
posted by Sys Rq at 2:23 PM on December 8, 2010


Is there a difference between an adjective and a descriptor that I'm missing

Nah, I was just acknowledging my difficulty in pinning down a good way to refer to this, and running with "specific type, specific type, vague throw-hands-in-air catchall". A lot of the forms are either a verb or an adjective but many are other things as well.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:24 PM on December 8, 2010


Much, much, much too much much?
posted by crunchland at 2:37 PM on December 8, 2010


Bug report: It turns utf-8 into mojibake

“Smedleyman: walk on parts in a war / lead roles in a cage, much?

Also I got my tabs switched and wasn't paying attention, and for a second I thought that

DO YOU GO TO THE BASKINS ROBBINS AND COMPLAIN THAT 31 FLAVORS ARE TOO DAMN MUCH?

was asked as a question on the green. That's not a bug, that's my fault.
posted by aubilenon at 2:39 PM on December 8, 2010


Felch Popes much?

walks away smugly wiping his hands.
posted by timsteil at 2:44 PM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: much?
posted by brundlefly at 3:17 PM on December 8, 2010


I blame Friends.

I do so NOT blame Friends.

I do SO not blame Friends.


Could you three BE any more Friendsical?
posted by amyms at 3:41 PM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


OH. MY. GOD.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:47 PM on December 8, 2010


Thank you very much
posted by misha at 3:50 PM on December 8, 2010


Say "bitter much?" much?

Say "say "bitter much?" much?" ... much?
posted by Electric Dragon at 3:51 PM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just at first glance, I'm really in awe at how productive "much" is.

It's all much of a muchness.
posted by Electric Dragon at 3:53 PM on December 8, 2010


Cortex probably couldn't sleep because he was suffering from Muchausen by Proxy Syndrome.
posted by crunchland at 3:58 PM on December 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think I should name my next router "much."
posted by QIbHom at 4:02 PM on December 8, 2010


"Refresh much?" is missing. This must be a mistake.

Otherwise thanks very muchly, totally awesome.
posted by Namlit at 4:28 PM on December 8, 2010


Ugh, I hate that construction SO MUCH.
posted by adamdschneider at 4:30 PM on December 8, 2010


Knave and Rhomboid, thank you for the term and wiki-link for "semantic satiety" - it's cool to find out that there's a neurophysiologic basis for the "now 'banana' looks funny" effect.
posted by gingerest at 4:36 PM on December 8, 2010


Much chum.
posted by effluvia at 4:53 PM on December 8, 2010


Much cum is a palindrome. I can't possibly be the first person to notice it, but a google search reveals nothing (I wouldn't recommend doing that google search though).
posted by Kattullus at 4:59 PM on December 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


no tops. i did much. cum did i. spot on.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:21 PM on December 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Alphabetic sort: worthless.
Chronological sort: priceless.

What's the first instance on MetaFilter? Inquiring minds want to know. Cat scan much?
posted by Plutor at 5:47 PM on December 8, 2010


Okay, okay, I can probably knock out chron versions of these tonight as well.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:06 PM on December 8, 2010


Let me put in a plea for the humble "galore," one of the few Irish-language words to be adopted into English.

(It's actually a phrase in Irish, but what the hey. Ceart go leor.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:23 PM on December 8, 2010


Get off my lawn mulch?
posted by Eideteker at 6:49 PM on December 8, 2010


cortex: on the blue, the grey, and the green.

I totally read this like it was Professor X, from Xclan:

"On The Blue, The Grey, and The Green…Sisssssaaaay"
posted by paisley henosis at 7:41 PM on December 8, 2010


Okay, here's the chronological files: blue, grey, and green.

The first use was on the blue, in 2000. The first use in metatalk was "thought police much?"
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:47 PM on December 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's okay dude the Mefi minecraft server is back up. You don't have to do this anymore.
posted by The Whelk at 8:41 PM on December 8, 2010


I just did one of my favorite things, digging in news and book archives on Google, and found that the "much" construction seems to be relatively rare in print sources before 2002, but it's awfully hard because the text string before "much" varies a lot. On the other hand, 1978 rings true enough, because I remember all the years in between and never remember a time when "___much?" sounded like a new construction. It's one of those phrases that sounds vaguely Yiddish-influenced, but who knows.

I. I think the "bitter much?" uses grow directly out of the kind of questions doctors used to ask on TV commercials (and maybe in real life) -- "Worry much?" - "Drink much?" - "Lose sleep much?" and so on. Substituting an adjective for the verb provides a little humor because it's not the usual expectation, but basically seems to build on the intent of the original construction.
posted by Miko at 8:59 PM on December 8, 2010


Scrap:

1980: "Listen to me - think I'm jealous, much?"
posted by Miko at 9:23 PM on December 8, 2010


Is there a term, similar to semantic satiety, that refers to a word looking like nonsense after too much exposure, but when the reader says the word aloud it does not produce the satiety effect?
posted by Night_owl at 9:55 PM on December 8, 2010


I blame Friends.

Friends came on in 1994. But one version of that taunt was moderately popular at least 15 years earlier. I herd it used exclusively for when a person tripped, and someone would say,"walk much?" It was a big improvement on its predecessor: "have a nice trip, see you next fall."
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:08 PM on December 8, 2010


That don't impress me, much?
posted by creeky at 11:09 PM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't call me Much.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:13 PM on December 8, 2010


Now let's apply this same process to all the other overused phrases on MeFi.

I for one welcome our BLANK overlords, Charles Nelson Reilly!
posted by AugieAugustus at 3:21 AM on December 9, 2010


Ha, one of the OP comments is mine. TOUCHED BY CORTEX.

I really hate this phrase. It just looks incredibly ungrammatical to me, particularly - for some reason - when British English speakers use it. 'Corrie fan, much?' AUGH WHAT DOES IT EVEN MEAN WHY ARE YOU PUTTING WORDS TOGETHER LIKE THAT AND THINKING IT'S EVEN A SENTENCE WHAT'S WRONG WITH JUST SAYING IT PROPERLY JESUS H. CORBETT

I haven't heard it over here for longer than a few years - I'm sure it's been around in the US for longer, but that;s the internet influence for you.

(Also, 'could you BE any more annoying' is really rubbish sarcasm. Go suck a fuck, Chandler 'Bing'.)
posted by mippy at 4:33 AM on December 9, 2010


"I think the "bitter much?" uses grow directly out of the kind of questions doctors used to ask on TV commercials (and maybe in real life) -- "Worry much?" - "Drink much?" - "Lose sleep much?" and so on. Substituting an adjective for the verb provides a little humor because it's not the usual expectation, but basically seems to build on the intent of the original construction."

Now that makes sense, as does the Yiddish - much more Yiddish in everyday AmEng than there is over in Blighty...until relatively recently the only Yiddish you'd hear British goyim use were 'schmaltzy' and 'chutzpah'. I think there's an American TV influence there bringing in Jewish phrases, at least to the bits of the UK where there's a very small Jew population. 'So' as an intensifier in the 'that's SO not true' style wasn't used at all prior to Friends here. Remember a lot of US shows that are huge your end aren't well known here - Buffy and Seinfeld are cult shows here, or were barely watched at the time - but Friends is still shown on E4 76 times a day.
posted by mippy at 4:39 AM on December 9, 2010



There's a fun string of false positives in the askme file, too, that read like a wierd almost lyrical interrogation:

Do you cook much?
Do you dance much?
Do you go barefoot much?
Do you go to small shows much?
Do you hear much?
Do you play video games much?
Do you read much?
Do you travel internationally with your cellphone much?
Do you use your top gear much?



They read like Bono lyrics to me.
posted by Dr-Baa at 5:49 AM on December 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think there's an American TV influence there bringing in Jewish phrases

There's a very good argument for that.
posted by Miko at 6:05 AM on December 9, 2010


Get out much?
posted by flabdablet at 7:39 AM on December 9, 2010


Different subject but it's more language data crunching, so see over here for some data and thoughts on the use of contractional vs. possessive use of the apostrophe-s form on metafilter.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:33 AM on December 9, 2010


Ho Chi Minh Trail much?

Not enough smarties -- too much granola.
posted by Trochanter at 10:32 AM on December 9, 2010


Reminds me of this passage from LeCarre's The Honourable Schoolboy

"And bring me a cold beer, cold, you hear, boy? Muchee coldee. Chop chop." The Superintendent had his way with natives and said this every time.

Old School muchee?
posted by Namlit at 11:17 AM on December 9, 2010


I just got this captcha.
posted by Eideteker at 11:38 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm actually surprised by how *low* the usage is. I seem to notice it much more often than would be suggested by those numbers. Touchy, much?
posted by stoneweaver at 12:04 PM on December 9, 2010


Detective, Munch?

Wait, I think I'm doing this wrong...
posted by MsMolly at 12:15 PM on December 9, 2010


Cortex, have you seen The Machinist? Just saying.
posted by Splunge at 3:03 PM on December 9, 2010


We forgot:
What, much?
posted by Namlit at 3:28 PM on December 9, 2010


done too much much?
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 6:52 PM on December 9, 2010


The Miller's Son, Much?
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:40 AM on December 10, 2010


Such much?
posted by Miko at 6:07 AM on December 10, 2010


"The Miller's Son, Much?"

Darmok and Jalad at Tenagra much?
posted by Eideteker at 7:49 AM on December 10, 2010


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