My question is all about the perceived formality of using about in the sentences like I'm all about that bass.

How (in)formal is using about like this?

OED has this definition for this usage:

to be (all) about: (a) to have as subject matter, to be concerned with; (b) to consist of essentially, to have as point or purpose; that is what it is all about: that is the reality of a particular situation or of life in general; (c) to be principally concerned with; to be in favour of or fond of.

In OED, the first usage is from a1400 and there is an example from N.Y.Times as of 2006. When it involves "I" as in "I'm all about..", it sounds less formal and it usually appears in song lyrics. The title of my question "I'm all about that bass" is a song from Meghan Trainor. OED has another lyrics example from 1980 which is an informal usage:

Ya see I'm all about makin that cold cold cash.

‘Sugarhill Gang’ 8th Wonder (song)

And here is the example from N.Y. Times from 2006 (which lacks "all"):

This hotel is about eccentricity and the unorthodox.

The site http://public.wsu.edu/ says that this usage should be avoided in very formal English. (formal vs. very formal?)

“This isn’t about you.” What a great rebuke! But conservatives sniff at this sort of abstract use of “about,” as in “I’m all about good taste” or “successful truffle-making is about temperature control” ; so it’s better to avoid it in very formal English.

Another point is using "all" or not. Using "all" appears to be for emphasis but does it affect the formality? How about using this phrase for people vs. inanimate objects?

This question focuses on the meaning so not a duplicate: To be about; to be all about

For the meaning of the lyrics, see: New (slang?) meaning of bass?

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    Possible duplicate of To be about; to be all about Dec 14, 2015 at 17:47
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    No, really. The answer on that linked question repeatedly points out that the usage is informal, slang. And I really think that if you're asking whether, say, including the word all makes it any more (or less) "slangy", that's just a matter of opinion. Dec 14, 2015 at 18:04
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    @FumbleFingers: The content of an answer doesn't determine that the question is a duplicate. We always get "matter of opinion" questions and accept if there is enough/relevant details to keep it on-topic. There could be more to add and I'm asking for more details here.
    – ermanen
    Dec 14, 2015 at 18:14
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    Well, I won't prolong the debate, since I see no chance either of us is going to shift position. I'll just say that if you think there's more ground here that can validly be covered by ELU, the right approach is to either comment asking for clarification on the original question / answer, or slap a bounty on it. But I've cast my vote, and the final outcome will depend on what others think. Dec 14, 2015 at 18:24
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    We are talking fish here, right? Dec 14, 2015 at 18:58

1 Answer 1


"I'm all about that bass." How (in)formal is using about like this?

It's very informal indeed, which I think you already concede.

It should also be used with great caution, since it is a rather forced idiomatic phrase and a cliché that sticks out as rather forced, particularly in the "I'm all about the ..." form. So it runs the risk of looking like lazy or copycat writing.

It is somewhat less toe-curling cringe-worthy in the "It's all about the ..." form, but it still requires care, and should only be contemplated in writing when comic affect is the goal (and you're not taking yourself too seriously).

  • Thanks for the answer. Do you mean that it is informal when it involves "I" or both "I" and "all" ? How about the usage of the phrase for inanimate objects or concepts?
    – ermanen
    Dec 14, 2015 at 18:57
  • I don't think "I" is used without "all" in the phrase: "I'm about that bass" doesn't quite ring true. A house can be advertised with the slogan "It's all about the views!", and indeed they often are.
    – Cargill
    Dec 14, 2015 at 19:05

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