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What does it mean when people say 'something more like'? I saw this expression form the article, but I really just don't get it. The full sentence is "Traditionally, something more like $50 has been the low end, with literary translation at around $120, and high-end work at $250."

  • If that was written by a native English speaker, it could only have been in a specialised context where the intention was more important than the language - often, for instance, financial commentary! “… something more like $50” makes a contrast with something earlier, or the $120 following. “something more like $50” here means “anything you’d like to work with that’s closer to $50 than $120…” “$50” was specific; “more like $50” made it more generic; “something more like $50” is an attempt to avoid specificity… Broadly, it boils down to “might we say, for the sake of argument…” – Robbie Goodwin Apr 7 '18 at 21:36
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It’s fairly common usage and it is a correction of an approximation in this context.

In your case, previous sentences may have given or implied a cost for (I guess) article translation. The quoted sentence splits the task into three different levels and gives a more accurate cost for each level. It could be replaced with the phrase some cost closer to.

A related phrase is "That's more like it" where some reality is compared to an ideal.

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In this context consider: in actuality TFD

used for emphasizing what is really true!

As in:

"Traditionally, this item has cost more like $50, but in actuality, $120 and even $250 at the high end are seen now."

'More like' is a guesstimate, versus actuality is what is found or prevalent.

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