What evidence of sentences ending with "or something" recorded ANYWHERE from 1800-1900 including in England, and what are the earliest written attestations during the 19th century in any of the U.S, England or Australia?

For example, after a road rage incident someone might say: "Were you TRYING to hit me or something?"

I need to know for dialogue in creative writing whether it's believable and not using too much creative licence. I couldn't find anything helpful from a Google search because of difficulty wording the search for search results. I'd be amazed and grateful if I can get a rough 'timeline' of notable uses such as 1800's books. "Old Worldian English' (Neo-Victorian) to my ear sounds poetic compared to "Late Modern English" and is used to great effect in Advance Australia Fair. "Old World" in Australia is a poetic term for the art style of postcards, sepia tone photographs, newspaper fonts, book covers, etc of the era 1800-1930-ish, as in the real estate expression "old world charm".

  • "Old Worldian English" isn't underresearched. IN fact, the history of the English language is extremely well-researched and there are tons of publications on all levels from Grammars, dictionaries and textbooks to research journal articles on Early and Late Modern English, Middle English, and Old English. Few other languages are researched in a comparable depth.
    – user94719
    Commented Jan 28, 2019 at 9:28

1 Answer 1


Your intuition that ending a sentence with "or something ." is rather modern is confirmed by the following query to Google ngrams: It was certainly used in 1800, but only rarely, and it took off in the last quarter of the 19th century. For a more detailed search, some of the available corpora of Late Modern English (e.g., CLMET3.1 may help you finding quotations and judging their "notability".

  • Clicking through to the earliest examples in Google Books, it does not look like the period and question mark at the end of the two ngram searches are being respected. All the examples I could find were in the middle of sentences and not the kind of thing the OP is asking about. This really only further supports the idea that it is fairly recent. Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 1:55

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