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What is the meaning of the phrase "after a fashion"? I take it that the word fashion has different connotations here than its usual meaning.

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3 Answers 3

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I think there’s another meaning besides the one cited by VonC, and that is more or less equivalent to “in a manner of speaking” or “so to say”.

It’s not commonly used but one example of this usage can be found in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince:

[Context: Dumbledore just came back from a secret mission where he had been forced to drink poison in order to acquire an important item. He’s now confronted by someone who, unaware of the real reason of Dumbledore’s absence, says:]

… “But she said you were just going for a drink …”

“Well, I certainly did have a drink […] after a fashion”

This is supposed to be a joke, based on the fact that Dumbledore deliberately understands a different thing than the other person by “to have a drink”. In this context, “after a fashion” does not mean “not very much” – the meaning is related, but quite distinct.

In this context, the meaning of “fashion” is exactly identical to “manner” or “kind” and I believe that is the original meaning of the word, as opposed to the current usage.

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  • Interesting reference.
    – VonC
    Nov 28, 2010 at 11:58
  • I think you missed an important part of the meaning of the phrase. The meaning must have a negative component, meaning more "in a negative manner". Yes, Dumbledore DID have a drink, but it was a negative drink. Great example though!
    – Evik James
    Jan 16, 2013 at 19:29
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From the Longman dictionary

after a fashion

not very much, not very well, or not very effectively:

'Can you speak Russian?' 'After a fashion.'

That differs considerably from the main meanings of "fashion":

  • something that is popular or thought to be good at a particular time.
  • a style of clothes, hair etc that is popular at a particular time.

Note: don't mix it up with "in a fashion" (in a particular way):

She will be working out her problems in her own fashion (= "in the way that she usually does this").

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After a fashion, according to Webster's new world dictionary, means "in some way or to some extent, not fully".