This is from a book that I'm reading. The whole quote is:

The bubble doesn't so much burst as evaporate, leaving us back in the real world.

I looked "so much as" up in the dictionary, it only gives something like "even" as meaning. I didn't see any usage example that looks like this one. What does it mean here? Thank you.

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    “not so much as” = “less than”. The bubble bursts less than it evaporates; that is, ‘evaporate’ describes the action better than ’burst’. – Anton Sherwood May 19 '19 at 14:57
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    Gentle hint: you're at liberty to accept any answer as quickly as you like, but accepting the first answer only minutes after it's posted makes it quite unlikely anyone else will bother posting an answer, even if theirs would have been very much better. :-) – Chappo Hasn't Forgotten Monica May 19 '19 at 15:20
  • Thank you all for the comments and for the hint :) I think I'm satisfied with the answers lol – aytug2001 May 19 '19 at 15:47
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    Welcome to ELU, aytug. Good question. +1: I can't quickly find a source mentioning this usage. I'd paraphrase 'The bubble doesn't so much burst as evaporate' as: 'It's not really that the bubble bursts; rather, it evaporates' or 'The bubble doesn't exactly burst – it evaporates'. Peter Jennings goes beyond a paraphrase into an interpretation. / 'in the dictionary' is not precise enough on ELU. In which dictionary / dictionaries – Edwin Ashworth May 19 '19 at 16:23

The bubble doesn't so much burst as evaporate means that the bubble didn't burst (with any sound) it just quietly disappears.
so much [verb 1 ] as [verb 2] in general means that the action is more like [verb 2] than [verb 1].

so much as without the verbs has a different meaning, and even can be a definition in this case. Collins English Dictionary has this definition and example


It's interesting to use "so much as" on the middle of an idiom, in this case "to burst (one's) bubble" which means to disappoint by bringing back to reality (as in, "I'm sorry to burst your bubble but the train is always late.") The author is playing on that phrase by perhaps implying that their bubble was not suddenly burst, or not burst by external forces, but rather it just evaporated, meaning that the person was brought back to reality slowly, or on their own terms.

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