I want to know whether words like: "something", "anything", "somewhat", etc., were written: "some thing", "any thing", "some what", around 1900 in United States.

I read a few letters of some historical importance and their author systematically splits the above mentioned words in two. He also writes "tomorrow" as "to-morrow", which was not a mistake, but about "something", "anything" and other similar words I do not know if he really intended writing them in two words or simply his ugly handwriting just gives the impression these words are written in two pieces.

  • 1
    Consider that both 'something' and 'some thing' are perfectly valid today, they would presumably be just as useful ~100 years ago.
    – Johns-305
    Jul 26, 2017 at 13:44
  • So far as to-morrow is concerned, according to this NGram the non-hyphenated orthography didn't actually become dominant until the 1930s. But I'm doubtful that two-word some what (in the sense of "rather") was ever common (all citations in the full OED since 1200 have it as a single word). Jul 26, 2017 at 14:14
  • Most of these basic compounds begin as two separate words and gradually hyphenate and then run together. The exact state of "something" at the turn of the 20th century in the US is probably a question for ELU. Jul 26, 2017 at 14:23
  • We would need to see the phrase in situ to determine whether the writer indended to write something or was instead referring to one particular, or a few, things. Jul 26, 2017 at 16:19

1 Answer 1


In the 1900s, something and some thing were used interchangeably, and today (for the most part) are still used interchangeably. If you used some thing instead of something, most people would never give it a second thought. However, as this article explains, some thing is not a correct way to spell something. In fact, some thing means something entirely different.

From the article:

Something is a pronoun. Something means an unspecified object or concept. It is a common word in both spoken and written English.

They explain that unlike other pronouns like it and they, something doesn't refer to anything specific.

Concerning some thing:

Some writers divide the pronoun something into two words, forming the phrase some thing. This is not an accepted variant of this word. Something is a compound, and should always be spelled as a single word.

Some thing (in present-day English) would refer to some specific thing. as the article explains:

That’s not to say that there are no contexts where some and thing might appear next to each other as separate words. Some is a determiner, and thing is a noun. The phrase 'some thing took hold of his ankle' would not feel out of place in certain 19th century horror fiction.

Today, though, a horror writer would probably include an adjective, to form 'some terrible thing' or 'some unholy thing'. Most people would also simply use the pronoun something.

So to sum up: in the 1900's, some thing and something were synonymous. Nowadays, some thing only refers to some specific thing, giving it a much more literal connotation.

  • And as @FumbleFingers pointed out, 'to-morrow', while a bit archaic, is still an acceptable variant of the word tomorrow. Jul 26, 2017 at 15:54

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