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a podcast recording goes as follows:

I came across this really funny website the other day. it is designed, um, to where people can anonymously send an e-mail to an annoying co-worker...

Is to where an informal phrase meaning in order [for someone] to or so that?

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    It sounds like the speaker changed their thought mid-sentence from something like "It is a site to do something..." to "It is a site where people..."
    – Peter
    Commented Nov 26, 2016 at 19:16

3 Answers 3

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The clue is in the "to where"; the speaker obviously means people can send emails to a place where ... etc.

This is a fractured sentence. Written out coherently it would say something like

I came across this really funny website the other day. It is designed as a place to which people can anonymously send an email to an annoying co-worker.

Remember that few people speak coherently in real life. Their sentences are frequently fractured, mixed up, starting and stopping, breaking from one thought to another in the middle, and so on. Linguist John McWhorter says "No language makes perfect sense," and that is especially true when people are speaking extemporaneously. Yet when you listen to speakers who talk this way (and almost everybody does at least occasionally talk this way), you know what they mean even though they may not be expressing themselves clearly. It's only when you put such utterances on display in print that people start to puzzle over them.

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The previous respondents have come up with some good ideas but your initial suggestion is in fact correct. I have noticed this usage becoming much more common in the last few years in the spoken word. The use of "to where" is by no means restricted to contexts where the word "where" would be expected at all. As far as I have noticed the phrase "to where" seems to mean something less specific than "in order that" or "so that".
It is popular with people who are not very well educated in English because it is not well defined and can fill any conjunctive role that needs to signify some kind of purpose or result. As I said, the rationalisations above appear plausible but my actual experience of hearing the increased popularity of this odd new conjunctive phrase suggests that your instinct was correct.

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  • very informative. thanks a million. Honestly, the speaker doesn't sound that much to have changed her mind. So, your take is what I was actually waiting for. We don't get many such elaborate answers in this forum, I think.
    – Itsme
    Commented Oct 21, 2017 at 18:09
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"it is designed, um, to where people can anonymously send an e-mail to an annoying co-worker..." should read "it is designed as a site from which people can anonymously" or "it is designed as a site where people can anonymously send". Actually "whence" is more correct, but terribly old-fashioned.

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    Actually, whence is not correct at all. It means from where, and can't serve to indicate motion toward a location.
    – Robusto
    Commented Nov 26, 2016 at 19:15
  • Whither is the archaic form for "to where".
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Nov 26, 2016 at 23:31

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