Same sound, opposite meaning

sagehen sagehen at WESTELCOM.COM
Sun May 12 17:23:56 UTC 2002

>On Sun, 12 May 2002, sagehen wrote:
># *Squat* seems to be another Janus word.  I always thought of it and
>#*diddly* & *diddly squat* as meaning /nothing/  or /less-than-nothing/, but
>#kept encountering them in contexts where /anything/  was clearly intended.
>#Looked up *squat* in the Oxford Dict. of Mod. Slang (no entry for *diddly*)
>#and found _both_ meanings given.  "Didn't do diddly squat for us" still
>#sounds like a double negative to me.
>"He did diddly-squat / fuck-all for us" = "He didn't do anything for us"
>= "He did nothing for us." The fact that you can observe also "He didn't
>do diddly-squat for us", imho, is on a par with "I could / couldn't care
>What's crucial about the idiom is that the "(less than) nothing" meaning
>is inherent in the lexical item, the idiom chunk "care less" or
>"diddly-squat" or "fuck-all" ("bugger-all" if you're English), not in
>the presence or absence of a traditional negator.
>If these were Janus words like "cleave", you'd expect "He did squat for
>us" and "He didn't do squat for us" to have opposite meanings, at least
>in some cases. But they don't; they *always* mean the same.
>-- Mark A. Mandel
I agree that the expression hardly exists outside this almost entirely
negative set of idioms.  It occurs to me that the /anything/ sense might be
felt a little more strongly  in a (rhetorical) question e.g.:  "do you
think he did diddly (or squat) for
 us?"  In which case, the Janus quality could still be claimed.

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