muchness/ much of a muchness

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sami33

Senior Member
arabic
Hi

WR dictionary define "muchness" this way:in phr. (much) of a muchness) very similar. But I wonder if there is any difference between "muchness" and "much of a muchness" in this context:

The Dormouse had closed its eyes by this time, and was going off into a doze; but, on being pinched by the Hatter, it woke up again with a little shriek, and went on: `--that begins with an M, such as mouse-traps, and the moon, and memory, and muchness-- you know you say things are "much of a muchness"--did you ever see such a thing as a drawing of a muchness?'

Source: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland-CHAPTER VII-A Mad Tea-Party.

Thanks
 
  • Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    The phrase "A and B are much of a muchness" is an old way of saying that A and B are similar.

    However, there is no such thing as a "muchness" by itself. Carroll is using the word humorously, taking advantage of how its "-ness" ending gives it the form of a noun. Some people say, also humorously, "We have a muchness of apples," but that isn't really correct English. It is a cute way to say "We have many apples."
     

    pwmeek

    Senior Member
    English - American
    By the way, the phrase has entered the English language as a set phrase. For some reason Lewis Carroll was able to coin (or at least popularize) many words and phrases which have since become a part of our everyday language.

    Some may have been in use before he put them into Alice, but I suspect that they would have faded away without this beloved book.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    The phrase has been around since at least the 18th century:
    1728 C. Cibber Vanbrugh's Provok'd Husband i. i. 17 Man. I hope‥, you and your good Woman agree still. J. Moody. Ay! ay! much of a Muchness.
    (OED)
     

    taked4700

    Senior Member
    japanese japan
    Hi,

    "Would you like tea or coffee? Oh, it's all much of a muchness when I'm thirsty."

    I think the conversation above is very natural. But I wonder why the subject is singular when much of a muchness means very similar, which would need its subject to be plural.

    Thanks in advance.

     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    I suppose 'it' is just the situation, as in similar expressions that could be used to answer that:

    It's all the same to me.
    It's all much the same.
    It's no big deal.
     

    taked4700

    Senior Member
    japanese japan
    Thank you, Entanglebank.

    How to use 'it' is one of the difficult things to learn.
    It is difficult for non-native English speakers to learn how to use 'it'.

    Thanks again,
    taked4700
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    "Would you like tea or coffee? Oh, it's all much of a muchness when I'm thirsty."
    I couldn't say this. If "it" is the situation, the meaning becomes "The situation is very similar". To me, it would make more sense to say "They [tea and coffee] are much of a muchness when I'm thirsty", but even that sounds a little odd, because we know that there's a significant difference between tea and coffee (albeit that the sentence would be understood).
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Much (adv.) = to a great extent -> "He saw that the two children were much alike."

    "of" = in the category of -> "The castle was of a style that he had seen in Spain."

    The word "muchness" meant 'a large quantity' -> "A muchness of wheat at the harvest caused prices to fall." - a muchness could only apply to one/the same category of things.

    ".........much........................of a.............................muchness"
    to a great extent........in the category of........large quantity of the same thing.

    Thus, by extension, muchness came to mean "similarity."
     
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