"not for nothing, but"

Frank Abate abatefr at EARTHLINK.NET
Wed Jun 18 10:55:12 UTC 2003

In reply to Geoff N on this, I have a friend, native of CT, in his 50s, who
uses this phrase very often.  And I have heard it from others.  It is a hot
cliché at the moment, around here at least.

There is a whole class of these kinds of cliched phrases, and they go in and
out of favor.  It is interesting that this one seems clearly to be regional,
as Geoff has not heard it.

These function in conversation as closers or openers, and are stock items,
ready-to-use, thus easy to turn to.  (Hasn't someone written about this in
American Speech or elsewhere?)  Others I know of that are in current use:

Don't (even) go there
Yeah, right
It's all good (esp. youth, maybe fading now)
. . . you know what I'm sayin'? (at close of a declarative statement; esp.
urban males)

There are many others.  They are in a middle ground somewhere between the
hackneyed and quotations.  Some are actually based on or popularized by
quotations, or allusions, such as:

yadda, yadda, yadda (popularized by Seinfeld)
Let's roll (a 911-ism)

Are these simply clichés?  Is there a better term for them?  It seems to me,
since they are colloquial, they are different from "ordinary" clichés.  They
generally are not entered in dictionaries, and it is an open question as to
whether and how much they are lexical items.

Frank Abate

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