"can do so much"

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Sat May 23 16:29:24 UTC 2009

On May 23, 2009, at 9:12 AM, Herb Stahlke wrote:
> I'm sure there's been discussion before of "I could care less,"
> meaning the same as "I couldn't care less."

endless discussion, here and on Language Log.

> But I don't recognize
> "can do so much" ['can only do so much'] as the same sort of thing.

well, they're not directly comparable in form.  "I could care less" is
a simple example of undernegation, with a missing explicit negator
"not".  "can do so much" (if it's not just an error, but a variant) is
missing a negative element, but it's a implicitly negative
"only" ('can do a lot, but not more than that').


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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