Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

A colleague asked to check in with me every couple of weeks. I would like to respond that it would be wonderful if they checked in ever so often. But, I don't believe that sounds correct. How should I phrase it?

share|improve this question

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Ever so is a rather archaic way of indicating degree, as in "I like picnics ever so much!" It is something you might hear Dorothy say to the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz.

If you hear it used to mean every so, the speaker is probably dropping the -y from the end of every. What you're hearing is probably:

It'd be wonderful if they checked in ever' so often.

I've heard the -y elided in this way in the southern and western regions of the U.S.

share|improve this answer
2  
I liked this answer best of the three that are here (as of this writing), because it strikes a nice balance between brevity and information. –  John Y Dec 18 '10 at 18:11
    
FWIW "Ever so" isn't archaic in the UK :-) –  psmears Jan 14 '11 at 16:05

ever so often

The phrase ever so simply means very. When used with often, it emphasizes the frequency slightly more than very does. Compare:

  • "He checked in very often."
  • "He checked in ever so often."

In the second example, the speaker subtly indicates his/her slight irritation or delight in the fact that "he" visited/called/stopped by to see the speaker so frequently.

every so often

This phrase means occasionally. It can be easily substituted with from time to time, sometimes or every now and then. Examples:

  • He takes a trip to London every so often.
  • I wish I could see him every day, not just every so often.

Every so often is more commonly used, I think, though I have this hunch that the meaning is sometimes confused with very often, which is just the opposite. Your sentence probably did not sound correct to your ears because one rarely hears ever so often these days, save in literary and poetic contexts. To analyze your response a bit further:

  • If you are happy with the frequency of a fortnightly check-in, then I think the proper response should be:
It would be wonderful if you checked in every so often.
  • If, perhaps, you would prefer a more regular check-in (say, every couple days, for instance), then you might respond thus:
That's great, but it would be wonderful if you checked in ever so often.

Honestly, since your chief aim is to communicate, I would suggest you avoid ambiguity. Hence, I would recommend using every so often or, better, another adverb that clearly expresses your thoughts.

NB: I confirmed my definitions with the New Oxford American Dictionary, 2nd Edition (installed on my mac) and the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary.

share|improve this answer
1  
Your example “That's great, but it would be wonderful if you checked in ever so often.” does not seem idiomatic to me: ever so is not an exact synonym of very, but also carries a connotation of especially or remarkably, which does not fit in this context. –  PLL Dec 18 '10 at 19:30
    
I do agree ever so is not an exact synonym of very and I alluded to this point earlier on in my answer. I was trying quite hard to justify the asker's use of ever so often and I guess I didn't hit the spot. I'll think over this a bit more. –  Jimi Oke Dec 18 '10 at 23:07

"Every so often" is the correct phrasing.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.