The origin of the phrase "much of a muchness"
is attributed to Sir John Vanbrugh's "The Provoked Husband" (1728).
Does anyone have the phrase in its original context?

Unless I'm imagining things, I remember seeing that phrase in context, and that it was expressed as a
negative: ".. it wasn't much of muchness", and that it clearly meant that the thing talked about was not of significant size or extent.
Many years later, George Eliot has a character say "Men's men: gentle or simple, they're much of a
muchness." In this context, the phrase meant "they're all much the same" quite a shift in meaning from the original.
It is the latter sense that seems to have stayed with us. The original sense (at least as I remember it) seems to have faded completely.
Does anyone today use "not much of a muchness" to
mean of little extent, size, or significance?

Michael West
Melbourne, Australia
The origin of the phrase "much of a muchness" is attributed to Sir John Vanbrugh's "The Provoked Husband" (1728). Does anyone have the phrase in its original context?

According to OED2:
1728 J. VANBRUGH & C. CIBBER Provok'd Husband I. i. 17 Man . I hope.., you and your good Woman agree still. J. Moody . Ay! ay! much of a Muchness.
The origin of the phrase "much of a muchness" is ... (1728). Does anyone have the phrase in its original context?

According to OED2: 1728 J. VANBRUGH & C. CIBBER Provok'd Husband I. i. 17 Man . I hope.., you and your good Woman agree still. J. Moody . Ay! ay! much of a Muchness.

Thank you. Then I must have seen the "no great extent" usage somewhere else.
AHD4 confirms the sense I am recalling:
NOUN: Greatness of quantity, degree, or extent.
and Webster's 1913 provides a cite:
The quantity and muchness of time which it filcheth. - W. Whately.
but it isn't the one I remember seeing.

Michael West
Melbourne, Australia
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The origin of the phrase "much of a muchness" is ... (1728). Does anyone have the phrase in its original context?

According to OED2: 1728 J. VANBRUGH & C. CIBBER Provok'd Husband I. i. 17 Man . I hope.., you and your good Woman agree still. J. Moody . Ay! ay! much of a Muchness.

I see the online OED entry for "much of a muchness" was considerably expanded in a "draft entry March 2003". But the first quotation is still the 1728 one Ben gives above.

The draft entry has a couple of variants, "of a muchness" (colloq.) and "a bit of a muchness" (rare). A number of new quotations were added, one dated as late as 1988.
(The online OED lets you click on "earlier" to see the entry as it was before they updated it, then click on "later" to go back to the update.)
I'm curious to know the significance of the term "draft entry". Does that mean the entry is tentative? Is a draft entry like a toe in the water, a wary feeler that will be hastily yanked if it proves to be unwise? What procedure do the editors follow to decide when to promote an entry from draft status to full-fledged entryhood?
Has anyone noticed any new entries in the online OED that are not marked "draft entry"? I don't doubt there may be lots, but I haven't happened to notice any.
The origin of the phrase "much of a muchness" is attributed to Sir John Vanbrugh's "The Provoked Husband" (1728). Does ... have faded completely. Does anyone today use "not much of a muchness" to mean of little extent, size, or significance?

Yes, but not often. I suspect it's another generational thing, for my dad used it often, and I grew up with the phrase.

wrmst rgrds
Robin Bignall
Hertfordshire
England
The origin of the phrase "much of a muchness" is attributed to Sir John Vanbrugh's "The Provoked Husband" (1728). Does ... much of muchness", and that it clearly meant that the thing talked about was not of significant size or extent.

You are imagining things. From the OED
1728 Vanbr. & Cib. Prov. Husb. i. i, Man. I hope..you and your goodwoman agree still? I. Moody. Ay, ay; much of a muchness.

and
1845 De Quincey Goldsmith Wks. 1857 VI. 217 Compare Addison'sage..with Goldsmith's+the two ages will be found to offer ‘much of a muchness’.

1893 K. Simpson Yorks. Stories 255 Gifts seem to me much of amuchness. They are apt to create a sense of obligation.
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The origin of the phrase "much of a muchness" is ... thing talked about was not of significant size or extent.

You are imagining things. From the OED 1728 Vanbr. & Cib. Prov. Husb. i. i, Man. I hope..you and your ... Yorks. Stories 255 Gifts seem to me much of a muchness. They are apt to create a sense of obligation.

Michael Quinion suggests that 'much of a muchness' means 'pretty much the same'.
http://www.quinion.com/words/qa/qa-muc1.htm
"It’s that relative sense that turns up in the saying, where there’s no strong idea of large size, merely of comparison, so that much of a muchness means no more than “very similar” or “just about the same”."

I've only ever heard it used in the "nothing to write home about" sense of something not being particularly special or noteworthy.

wrmst rgrds
Robin Bignall
Hertfordshire
England
Michael Quinion suggests that 'much of a muchness' means 'pretty much the same'. http://www.quinion.com/words/qa/qa-muc1.htm

Yes, that's what I said too. It's the phrase "not much of a muchness", meaning "not much of anything," that I'm trying to track down.

Michael West
Melbourne, Australia
Michael Quinion suggests that 'much of a muchness' means 'pretty much the same'. http://www.quinion.com/words/qa/qa-muc1.htm

Yes, that's what I said too. It's the phrase "not much of a muchness", meaning "not much of anything," that I'm trying to track down.

I couldn't find many uses of the phrase on Google at all, and most were referring to a title of a book about guide dogs. I found exactly one that appears to illustrate that meaning:
One of the best white beers i've tried, very sliky smooth with am appetizing, zingy, clovey, citrusy
flavour, in the overall scheme of beer, theres not much of a muchness when it comes to the body and
flavour, but its palate covering stuff, and has
pretty easy drinkability, which makes it quite
versitile in terms of session drinking and having it as a complimet to food.
I found more than that illustrating the "not all the same" meaning (since being "much of a muchness" means being the same, the opposite would logically be "not all the same").
In a discussion about football (soccer) managers, one guy says "As I've said before, most managers are much of a muchness. Believing that someone can come in and bring overnight fame and fortune to the club is nothing more than a pipedream," and then another guy contradicts that, saying managers are "not much of a muchness."
Another one:
Education news & resources at the Times Educational Supplement ... Trouble is, the schools there are not much of a muchness - they differ considerably in academic and moral standards (related to employment). ...
The way I look at it, when a phrase is hardly ever used any more, you can hardly expect people to agree on what it means. Still, as I said, I don't see reason to believe that "not much of a muchness" is some sort of popular phrase.

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