what and what not

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Nov 24 18:36:26 UTC 2010

My acceptability meter occasionally goes haywire, but I wanted to run it
by anyway...

There are almost 2 million raw ghits for "what and what not". After the
first several pages, many become spurious (even some of the early ones
are), but that's beside the point--such a high raw count would normally
imply acceptability. And most of the uses that the search produces are
[almost] fine by me. But the original fragment that sent me there keeps
me scratching my head and I can't quite figure out why:

> From the TSA's blog post describing what and what not to bring through
> airport checkpoints: ...

Compare that to

> Deciding what and what not to cover.


> OpEdNews - Article: What And What Not To Say To A Marine

But the front page lede for the latter column is

> What we should and should not say to those in the Marines and in any
> other branch of the military should mix respect for their position and
> intentions with a challenge not to be used as hired guns.

The body of the article does not use either phrasing. (http://goo.gl/scmea)

Certainly, "should and should not" does not bother me in the slightest,
but "what and what not" leaves a bad taste in my mouth even when I find
it less objectionable than the first-mentioned piece. Any suggestions?

For the most part, my suspicion is that when one uses "what and what
not" or "what or what not" usually just "what not" would do.


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

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