Why use "some"?

I've noticed that people use the word "some" quite often when they offer statistics. For instance, I was watching a documentary, and the narrator said, "There were some 30 million gallons of water." That doesn't sound like "some" to me--that's a lot!

I know that they don't literally mean "some" as in "not many", but they don't need to use that word at all. Why not say, "There were 30 billion gallons of water."

If you listen to various narratives, news reports, or commentaries carefully, you'll hear people use the word "some" when they're about to offer information. And you'll also notice that it's not necessary. I wonder when this trend started.


Duncan Head said...

Surely this use of "some" merely indicates approximation? It's not precisely 30 million gallons, but it's something in that general neighbourhood.

And hence, perhaps it's "when they offer numbers that are _not_ statistics"?

It's a usage not uncommon in 19th-century writers - the earliest examples I can find on a quick google are 17th century.

Margaret Larkin said...

I know it's not a precise amount and understand the usage is quite old, but still, "some" seems unnecessary.