When I use the phrase "so much," I normally mean it as a quantifier of an uncountable noun. That sounds pretty obtuse, but let me give examples:
- Don't use so much sugar
- The patient is in so much pain
This is similar to "Don't use so many potatoes," but you can count potatoes easily, but sugar is difficult, and pain is uncountable. Alright?
Here's the usage that confuses me:
- You threw them away like so much trash. (from an episode of The Rookie)
- Mama's giant cross-stitched bedspread would never be finished, and was so much ash. (from The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal)
Clearly, this usage is different, and it isn't meant to quantify the trash or the ash. It seems to emphasize the contrast between the subject and object (them vs trash, bedspread vs ash), and maybe to emphasize the negative aspect of the trash and ash. And yet, you could easily leave "so much" out of those sentences and not affect the meaning at all.
Am I missing a nuance?
And more importantly: Is there a name for this? Are there other phrases used in the same way? Are there rules about proper usage?