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On The Blacklist episode, an character says this for another character:

My name is Asher Sutton. What's yours? And please, don't tell me it's Wainwright,because that is about as phony as that watch you're wearing.

I know that he's trying to say which his name is as fake as their watch. but my questions is what would be the meaning "about" in this context, is it something idiomatic?

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In this case, "about" is equivalent to "almost."

To give you another example, if I were watching a tennis match and both players were playing very poorly, I could say,

This is about as bad as it gets.

It's usually used to lighten a statement a little. It's a slightly softer way of saying something negative.

  • Thanks man! I did know that I could tenderize something as negative with "about" – TMoraes Nov 12 '15 at 0:44
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The speaker's point is only that he has observed the phoniness and wants an honest answer, so he is using the comparison as a rhetorical device to assert himself as a keen observer.

A synonym for about in this case would be approximately, because the speaker, who is comparing the two items' degrees of phoniness, has judged them to be approximately equal.

For that same reason, about fits this context better because it's casual.

Approximately would sound pretentious and silly, as if the speaker were claiming to have used a technical standard to calculate two precise quantities of phoniness. Yet, omitting the word about could make the statement sound more emphatic and inflammatory than it needs to be.

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