for what it's worth / for that matter

Discussion in 'English Only' started by ishatar, Aug 22, 2004.

  1. ishatar

    ishatar Senior Member

    France, French
    Hi, I'm new to this forum!

    I'd like to know what "for what it's worth" means. I've seen it quite a lot but I can't seem to figure its meaning out.

    "Check voltage levels or, for what it's worth, just replace
    the power supply."
    "Why did you come back? Or for what it's worth, why didn't you just wait"?

    Sounds a bit like a try-that-if-the-former-alternative-doesn't-work-or doesn't suite-you statement but I'm not too sure.

    And what about "for that matter"? I've seen tons of exemples by typing it on Google and yet I failed to grasp its precise meaning.

    "Write a Book, or anything for that matter."
    "Depression, or for that matter, Inflation."
    "Why Quantize Gravity (or Any Other Field For That Matter)"?
    "The sources of pollution of Ganga or for that matter any
    other river can be classified broadly into two categories."

    Here it seems to be more like "that second things is also concerned by the statement.", right?

    Thanks in advance for your kind help. :)
  2. jacinta Senior Member

    USA English
    I would be interested to see what other people say about these two phrases. Their meanings are very difficult to explain.

    For that matter: Another way to say this would be "while you are at it"
    It would be used when you are generalizing about something. "The electricity went off and we couldn't finish the show we were watching . For that matter we couldn't do anything."

    "Write a book, or anything for that matter." This means "Do something. Do anything worthwhile. Do something that is better than what you are doing now."

    "The sources of pollution of Ganga or for that matter any other river..." This is stating that any river can be polluted by the sources discussed, not just the Ganga.

    for what it's worth: This one is trickier to explain. It has a slightly flippant connotation. It means, for lack of a better explanation, "take this information and do what you like with it".
    "For what it's worth, this cereal is better." The speaker doesn't want to say "This cereal is better". "In my opinion" is another way to say it.

    It is used to soften a statement, such as the one you used. "Or for what it's worth, why did you come back?" The speaker is trying to convey a feeling of not caring whether the person came back or not. He may care very much, but he doesn't want the person to know his true feelings.

    I hope this helps.
  3. ishatar

    ishatar Senior Member

    France, French
    It does help indeed!

    "For that matter" seems simpler than I thought. It really seems to be some logic behind its use. Now that I think about it, each sentences I saw it in were trying to make a generalisation or to say that what was true for one thing was also true for something else, like in the phrase "That's useful in Flash (or Director for that matter)".

    As for "for what it's worth" the idea seems to play something down, to convey the idea that the message is not so important, not necessarily accurate (it is just your opinion after all), or to try to fool someone into thinking it doesn't matter to you. I suppose it must be useful when you wan't to give someone a piece of advice and don't want him/her to think that you might be hurt if your advice isn't followed.

    Do you think I got it?
  4. VenusEnvy

    VenusEnvy Senior Member

    Maryland, USA
    English, United States
    Perfectly! Bravo!
  5. pattap New Member

    I do not agree with the meaning of "for what it's worth".

    "Check voltage levels or, for what it's worth, just replace
    the power supply." = Check the voltage levels but for the effort of doing so you better just replace the power supply

    The idea would be like this: The first alternative even when good and viable does not completely deserve the effort compared to the second alternative.
    just my point of view
  6. Macunaíma

    Macunaíma Senior Member

    Um ninho de mafagalfinhos
    português, Brasil
    I seem to hear the phrase "for that matter" used sometimes to add extra information, like in "I don't like your mother's cooking; nor do the children, for that matter". Does the phrase in this case fit the definition you gave, I mean, is it about generalizing too?
  7. Libra girl New Member

    Malaysia, Hokkien
    Hi Jacinta,

    I hope you could help clarify the sentence below for me. Someone sent me this message and I'm trying to figure out if there is an underlying meaning to it. It goes like this:

    "But for what it's worth, I did think of you, almost everyday."

    Thanks very much in advance!! :)
  8. Harry Batt

    Harry Batt Senior Member

    USA English
    "For what it is worth is a cliché" which means t ake it at whatever value it has or you think it has even if the value is nothing. The expression goes way back to 1377. In the sentence posted by Libra the worth would be how much it means how much of a benefit is it to know that someone is thinking of you.
  9. Libra girl New Member

    Malaysia, Hokkien

    Thanks for the explanation. i think its clearer to me now. I think what this person is trying to tell me is that whatever that i want think or make out of the situation, he did thought of me almost every day.

    Am i correct about this?
  10. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Welcome to the forums! :)

    Yes, you've understood the expression. In this context, another way to put it would be "just so you know."
  11. mizoka New Member

    Português - Brazil
    Hi, I kind of understood the meaning of both expressions but still, I can't really get "for what it's worth" in two situations:

    1) You're repeating me lines that you think I wanna hear
    But I don't wanna hear anymore
    As if sorry is any consolation
    For what it's worth, you're stringing me along
    Shouldn't need anyone
    Just scared of being alone
    But by the time you figure this out
    And I'm already gone
    (Also, I imagine "stringing me along" is something like "you're killing me" - figuratively, of course. Am I right?)

    2) It's just the name of a song, so I don't have a context to try and understand.
    It's about a guy who apparently was dumped, feels devastated, hopeless and misses her girl. You can easily find the lyrics on Google (I'm not allowed to post URLs to other sites yet). It's "For What It's Worth", by Amber Pacific.

    I'd appreciate any help. :)
  12. Melz0r Senior Member

    Suffolk, England
    English, England
    To string somebody along means to deceive them, and the connotation is for a period of time - dragging them along on a string of lies, if you can imagine it. For example, in a relationship, if you pretend to be in love with someone but aren't. When the person finds out it's all been a lie, they might cry, "You've been stringing me along all this time!"

    I think in the Amber Pacific song - looking at the lyrics - 'For What it's Worth' fits into the function described above by ishatar:

    This is just my opinion - of course all artwork is open to interpretation.
  13. DonnamarieInSwitzerland New Member

    The song title "For What It's Worth" is a throw-away title. The song itself is a classic. While the meaning of the song has long been misconstrued as being an anti-war song, specifically an anti-Vietnam war song, it actually refers to a "riot" on Sunset Strip. The song is, however, easily applicable to anti-war issues. The heavy-handed response of the Los Angeles Police and Sheriff's Departments resonated with atrocities committed by the U.S. military in Vietnam, and with domestic authorities misbehavior relating to valid pubic protests such as the one on the Sunset Strip that is the subject of the song.

    I was on the Sunset Strip shortly before the police brutally ended the protest. I left before things got out of hand. I left as soon as I saw "prison" buses. Those buses were indiscriminately filled with anyone who caught the police's eye.

    In the song, the words "the man" ("There's a man with a gun ove ther") refer to the police.The line "What a field day for the heat" similarly refers to the authority's misconduct.
  14. Man_from_India Senior Member

    Indian English
    "Why did you come back? Or for what it's worth, why didn't you just wait"?
    Then this sentence means that: Why did you come back? Well whatever may be the reason, why didn't you just wait before leaving?
    Is it right?
  15. DonnamarieInSwitzerland New Member

    “For what it’s worth” amounts to a disclaimer. In other words, “This might not be very important and you shouldn’t over-emphasize it, but this is my personal perspective on the matter.” For example: "I was on the Sunset Strip the night the song 'For What It’s Worth' refers to. Even though I left before events got out of hand, here’s my impression of what happened, for what it’s worth.”

    “For that matter” simply means “In that case” or “In addition to” or, as Jacinta points out, “While you’re at it.”

    Regarding the phrase “To string along,” Melzor is correct in saying that “the connotation is for a period of time,” but “to string someone along” is not necessarily to deceive them; it can merely refer to a delaying tactic.


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