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I sometimes see this kind of usage of "like so much":

Her flawlessly crafted facade hides a real person that's usually breaking like so much fine china in order to keep up the deception.

Similarly:

In staking out the line between poem and prose, [Danielewski] treats our traditional lexis like so much Silly Putty.

Seems kind of archaic / quaint to me. What does it mean exactly?

2 Answers 2

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It does sound like an affected phrase to me. It's a metaphor that compares the former object with the latter object as being similar. It's meant humorously, I think.

To translate: In the first phrase, her 'real' inner person is actually a fragile thing, prone to breaking easily, much in the same way that fine china breaks easily. In the second phrase, Danielewski treats our vocabulary like Silly Putty, meaning that he molds it very easily into whatever shape he wants. I think it's meant as a compliment.

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  • Hm, so basically the "so much" part can be dropped and it'll mean the same. Thought so. Oct 25, 2010 at 17:07
  • yeah the meaning will be teh same, but it'll definitely sound different. i can't quite put my finger on it. i was going to say it amplifies the ease with which something is done, but you can also say "he wept painfully, like so many violin quartets eking out sorrowful lamentations" .
    – Claudiu
    Oct 25, 2010 at 17:31
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It designates an equal measure or amount of 'x' for the simile and is primarily useful when a simile is unclear due to the way the sentence has been constructed.

Consider this sentence from a draft of 'Enigma,' a short story by Katja Rammer, describing the way a demon plays with his smoking goatee:

"He twirled his goatee’s wisp of smoke around a finger and flicked it across the table like a gossamer ribbon."

What is she comparing here? Gossamer ribbons aren't usually flicked across a table, so why would she use 'flicking a gossamer ribbon' as a simile for 'flicking the smoke?'

What she intends is that the simile is not for the verb/action, but for the smoke itself. You may have caught that when you read it; or you may not have. When I read it, I stumbled.

Clarify by calling out the noun with "like so much," like this:

"He twirled his goatee’s wisp of smoke around a finger and flicked it across the table like so much gossamer ribbon."

The expression "like so much" is shorthand for writing out the measurement. In this case, "like so much ribbon" substitutes for "as if it were a length of" ribbon. You could choose to write it out the long way.

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  • I think it is the goatee's wisp that is being compared to a gossamer ribbon here.
    – Joachim
    May 22, 2021 at 8:56
  • His goatee is smoking and it's a wisp of smoke she's building the simile for. (He's a demon.)
    – Nissa
    May 22, 2021 at 15:57
  • Your explanation that the goatee is smoking should probably be in the answer; I was distracted by imagining a plume of smoke that somehow looked like a goatee, and couldn't really make sense of the sentence.
    – user888379
    May 22, 2021 at 20:10

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