Dodson 2010.

Back when I was a grad student in linguistics, I dreamed… well, maybe “dreamed” is a bit much, but I certainly hoped I would see my name in Language, the journal of the Linguistics Society of America; one might have thought the dream was dead once I left grad school to become a bum minimum-wage bookstore worker, eventually graduating to proofreader and then editor, but lo, the March issue includes “Expressive updates, much?” by Daniel Gutzmann and Robert Henderson (free preprint version here), which includes this passage:

We dub this construction »expressive much« (henceforth x-much).³ While x-much is firmly colloquial, and so it is possible to find English-speakers who do not control the construction, it is not particularly new. The earliest documented example comes from 1978 episode of Saturday Night Live (Sullivan 2010), though OED citations and discussion online pick out the late 1980s and early 1990s as an important moment for the x-much, in particular, with its prominent place in the movie Heathers and on the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Adams 2003; Dodson 2010).

“Dodson 2010” represents the following entry in the References:

Dodson, Steve. Dec. 8, 2010. »Much?« Blog post. url:

I’m chuffed.

(Via MetaFilter.)


  1. Zombies, vampires, superheroines and languagehat citation.

    This is the most entertaining linguistics article I’ve ever seen.

  2. Bill Walderman says

    Maybe I’m misremembering, but it seems to me this usage of “much?” was prevalent in my high school and college days (1960-1968). Perhaps it didn’t make it into print until the 1980s.

  3. Much of the slang used in Heathers was either completely invented (“It’ll be very.”) or chosen because it was not widely known at the time (“I’ve got to motor.”) While I personally think that the filmmakers made quite a few poor decisions in Heathers, I think the slang choices really do work. The unfamiliar but comprehensible expressions the teens use serve the usual purpose of keeping the language from becoming dated. Moreover, they also emphasize the high school cliquishness that is so important to the setting and plot

  4. David Marjanović says

    Monumentum aere perennius!

  5. Stu Clayton says

    … exegerunt.

  6. exegi

    = former attorney general

  7. Stu Clayton says

    Took me a while to figure out that one.

  8. Christian Weisgerber says

    Similarly, I seem to remember that the BtVS writers were lauded for their convincing youth slang and then had to admit that they were just making it up.

  9. The infamous Grunge Speak hoax.

    Good times, good times.

  10. And a recent interview with its perpetrator.

  11. John Cowan says

    You should add yet another update to Dodson 2010 pointing to Dodson 2019 (i.e. right here).

  12. David Marjanović says

    = former attorney general


  13. Because Buffy the Vampire Slayer because such a feminist/gnurd cultural phenomenon, it had a lot of older viewers (i.e. people outside its core fan demographic) who found it easy to overlook (sometimes to the point of willful blindness) the show’s shows many obvious inanities and inconsistencies.

  14. If anyone watches Community, they’ve seen the scene where one character says “Bitter much?” Response: “Say ‘bitter much’ much?” And finally, “Say ‘say `bitter much` much’ much?”

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