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I routinely find this expression in newspaper, magazines, blogs... My guess is that it's used to report a widely shared opinion, but I couldn't find any confirmation of this. Or maybe it's just used to emphasize the adjective? I'm afraid I might be missing a subtelty here.

Here are a few examples from the first page of googling "oh so *":

  • Paul Ryan's oh-so-clever jab at Jay Cutler
  • Chivas USA came oh so close to getting the first goal of the match
  • The movie-star-handsome [...] stung with that oh-so-direct comeuppance
  • Robert Pattinson Oh So Lonely: 'No One Ever Calls Or Texts Me!'
  • An Oh-So-British Affair Projects a Fresh, Antique Charm
  • LaPorta made an oh-so-costly error in the game
  • Finally, the long, oh so very long flight back to Vancouver

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Can you give some more context? I'm having trouble thinking of examples of this pattern. – Mitch May 22 '11 at 3:05
Well, as I said, I find it routinely; downvoting just because of this seems quite a bit harsh. – UncleZeiv May 22 '11 at 3:41
maybe it's just a kind of slang use of the word to make it easier to reflect a more real just regular and casual way that people talk? – user57693 Nov 19 '13 at 10:47
up vote 4 down vote accepted

"Oh-so" means "very", but with the implication of certain emotion. The "oh" caries similar meaning to a sigh. It can imply sarcasm, relief, frustration, etc.

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So it's context dependent, isn't it? And sarcasm seems to be its most prominent use. – UncleZeiv May 23 '11 at 22:40

I believe it means "very" or "extremely". It is used to modify an adjective or adverb.

"Paul Ryan's oh-so-clever jab at Jay Cutler"


"Paul Ryan's very clever jab."

Another example

"LaPorta made an oh-so-costly error in the game"

"LaPorta made an extremely costly error in the game"

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Possibly because it's a somewhat 'quirky' idiom in the first place, oh-so often gets used in sarcastic / scornful / jocular contexts. – FumbleFingers May 22 '11 at 4:13
I'd read the "oh-so-clever" sentence as "Paul Ryan thought his jab was very clever, but it was actually rather lame". – deceze May 22 '11 at 9:56

Example: Paul Ryan's oh-so-clever jab at Jay Cutler

"Oh, so clever" is a thought on it's own, a saying that could stand by itself and may have even been uttered when the jab itself was uttered. However, using that phrase implies that the jab had to be quite cleaver indeed. Thus, in this example, the idiom emphasizes the adjective with the underlying assumption of the phrase.

Example: Chivas USA came oh so close to getting the first goal of the match

Again, "Oh, so close" was likely said (or at least thought) by a large portion of those involved, and again, the phrase implies that the goal was exceptionally close and imparts that state to the adjective.

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