3

This is about something as in "something something" and what I perceive to be variations thereof :

(1) [word] something something [word]
(2) [word] somethin' somethin' [word]
(3) A little something something
(4) A little somethin' somethin'
(5) A little something

Of course it's about something that is not known. My experience is that (1) and (2) are used when someone is trying to figure out a string of words but knows only one for instance, and uses it a bit like a wildcard (something something café you know; i.e. hard rock).

Another use I'm familiar with is when something is (5) (missing) a little something (top ngram); like when someone tastes what you cooked and says that (it's missing a little something, I don't know, salt maybe...).


Is there a difference in meaning between something something and just something when using little (3 vs. 5) i.e. is one less precise than the other? Furthermore, is there a difference in meaning from using the contracted form (somethin' somethin')? Do we generally use one something per missing term in (1) and (2) or is "something something" for two or more? Finally, is there anything inappropriate, or innuendo with using (a) "little something something" (3&4), as in:

Your performance is not on par with what I expected, it's missing a little something something which I would like to see showcased in upcoming events.

  • Is your last sentence a quotation from a written source or from speech? It seems to me it would be idiomatic only if pointed with a dash: "It's missing a little something—something which I would like to see &c”. In that case the second something would introduce a further specification. – StoneyB Aug 31 '15 at 12:09
  • @StoneyB Thank you. I envision only speech here, including in that last sentence... A further specification, you mean something within something? – user16335 Aug 31 '15 at 12:27
  • 1
    I mean that two something's together in that context are only likely to occur if the second is 'marked' vocally as a repetition of the first, as in my previous comment. – StoneyB Aug 31 '15 at 14:56
4

"Something something" is slang and should be avoided in most professional settings or formal expressions.

See this Urban Dictionary definition and understand many people interpret it as definition #3.

Example #1

Fred: What did you do last night?

Bob: I visited my girlfriend.

Fred: What did y'all do?

Bob: A little somethin' somethin'.

Analysis

In Example #1, "somethin' somethin'" most likely means either sex or drugs. But it could also mean we watched a movie, ate dinner or did anything else two people might do together — in which case the response would be considered coy.

Example #2

You've got a little somethin' somethin' on your chin.

Analysis

In Example #2, "somethin' somethin'" most likely means spilled food (like mustard when eating a hot dog). And you could drop the second "somethin'" without changing the meaning of the sentence.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Points to take away about the use of somethin' somethin':

  • Meaning is highly variable and dependent upon context.
  • Dropping "g"s almost always makes language informal (i.e., slang).
  • A common slang interpretation means (or alludes to) sex or drugs (or both). But not always.
  • Putting "a little" in front of the expression makes it more likely it means sex or drugs. But not necessarily. It moves the expression slightly more toward the slang end of the spectrum.
  • In any professional or formal context, you probably should choose a different way to express your idea. (Like dropping the second "something" and including the "g". i.e., Just say or write "something.")
  • As a side note, I sense this is an instance of contrastive focus reduplication. (However, it may be possible that this has become a set phrase) Anyways, I like this answer. +1 – M.A.R. Aug 31 '15 at 16:47
  • Also for OP's case 1 and 2, consider forgetting words: I'd like to be under the sea In a something something in the shade – AbraCadaver Aug 31 '15 at 21:33
  • Thank you, it's very insightful. So one could say it's NSFW. You did not touch upon my reference to a place such as "something something café". Should I read in that you consider this entirely unrelated or that in such a case, this invites lewd remarks about the name of the place or some pun? – user16335 Aug 31 '15 at 22:40
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    To borrow a phrase from J.R.'s home page, "context is everything." Keep in mind, there is not always inappropriate (NSFW) innuendo with the phrase. Regarding "something something café" I would say that example does not work in English as in that context, "something something" would not be an appropriate wildcard substitute for a proper noun (i.e., Hard Rock). Although it can often be a wildcard for common nouns as in Example #2 — spilled mustard or "random" foodstuff. – Mowzer Sep 1 '15 at 5:08
0

Usage as in (3) and (4) must be regional , I've never heard it as 50+ years native English speaker (Toronto, California, London UK). Possibly from the southern USA? Usage (1) in the context of forgotten words in a song -- the singer would usually use as many 'somethings' as fit the rhythm of the forgotten words.

In this context, people I know might also use the word 'Words', for example,

"I was words words, Words words words words, On a cold and cloudy day..."

or , "I was something, Something something, On a cold and cloudy day ... "

where the missing words are "Standing, by my window," ... so the singer keeps the song going until the point where she remembers the words again.

Your last example about the performance just looks incorrect to me, as @StoneyB says, if a dash or semi-colon were placed in between the two occurences of 'something' it would make some sense. It would lend emphasis to the further specification of what is missing, by building up some tension in the listener. I don't see the innuendo mentioned by @Mowzer , again perhaps that is regional.

"Your performance is not on par with what I expected, it's missing a little something; something which I would like to see showcased in upcoming events. And that something is --- ENERGY!"

  • Thank you! (4) I've heard I think in a movie, maybe one of the Fast&Furious, maybe an African-American character, maybe they were mincing something or understating it, and two characters were repeating that to one another. I'm not sure. – user16335 Feb 29 '16 at 20:54
  • I can't advise much on African-American usages as I am not that familiar -- besides having seen some of the same movies! – r a t Mar 1 '16 at 16:38

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