3

Example from page 75 of Frederick Schauer’s Thinking Like a Lawyer:

But what of mandatory authorities? Are they as “binding” as the traditional terminology suggests? The answer depends on what is meant by “binding,” and it turns out that speaking of “binding” authority can be just as misleading as speaking of “persuasive” authority.

What are the similarities and differences between what about and what of? I see that the definitions below are worded differently, but I don’t see any intrinsic differences — which I still suspect must exist.

what about 1a. does that include (someone) : how about (someone)
1b. how does that affect (someone or something) :
2. used to make a suggestion about what could be done
3. used to ask someone to tell you something in response to the thing that you have just said

what of 1. formal how does that affect (someone or something)
2. why does (something) matter

2

What of and what about are not idioms; they don't mean something other than the sum of their parts. To contrast what of with what about is contrasting of and about. Are they perfectly synonymous? Some say there are no perfect synonyms. But for all intents and purposes, in this use, what of and what about are interchangeable.

Of:

about; concerning.

About:

concerning; on the subject of; in regard to.

Though speak to me of love sounds poetic, it means, basically, speak to me concerning love or about love.

  • Obama spoke of the need to reduce America's health care costs...
  • President Obama spoke about the need for comprehensive immigration reform...
1

what of 1. formal

That's the difference - 'what of' is formal, 'what about' isn't. The latter is far, far more common in everyday usage.

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