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In Chapter 1 of The Great Gatsby, part of a sentence went like this:

... a national figure in a way, one of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterward savors of anti-climax.

I went to COCA and searched for [savor].[v*] of and it gave nothing, meaning that in contemporary usage, "savor" as a verb is never followed by an "of." I know that today we usually say "savor something" instead of "savor of something," so does that mean it is a deprecated usage of the word "savor" in that sentence?

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NOAD lists this under savor as a verb: (savor of) have a suggestion or trace of (something, esp. something bad). Collins shows something similar under Defs 6 & 7. Wordnik reports a 1913 dictionary reading: v. to have a particular smell or taste; -- with of; to partake of the quality or nature; to indicate the presence or influence; to smack; -- with of. –  J.R. Jul 11 '13 at 0:03
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Just as you can taste the soup or the soup can taste of onions. –  TimLymington Jul 11 '13 at 17:13
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Before going to the COCA, go to the nearest dictionary. –  Kris Jul 13 '13 at 7:29
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2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

When you say you "savour something", you are referring to the item you are actually (typically) tasting.

When you use "savour of something", you are discussing the charteristics of the item you have just tasted.

Note definition #5 for the verb, as given in Chambers Dictionary:

savour or (US) savor
noun
1. the characteristic taste or smell of something.
2. a faint but unmistakable quality.
3. a hint or trace.
4. relish or enjoyment.
verb (savoured, savouring)
1. to taste or smell with relish.
2. to take pleasure in something.
3. to flavour or season.
4. to relish.
5. (chiefly savour of something) to show signs of it; to smack of it.
savourless adj
ETYMOLOGY: 13c: from French savour, from Latin sapor, from sapere to taste.

In your quotation

everything afterward savors of anti-climax

the use of "savours of" is correct because you are describing the characteristics of "everything": you are not referring to the item having those characteristics.

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Though unusual, I wouldn't say the usage is deprecated: "smells and savors of the season", "which savors of politics", but surely there be an ill savor", . . .

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From The Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etyomology: savor n. Probably before 1200, savur agreeable flavor, taste, sweetness; . . . related to sapere to have a flavor . . .

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cf savory

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RH: taste: ref. to savor as syn.

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