hypernegative "miss not" in Hemingway
laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Oct 7 20:14:14 UTC 2011
One of the betes noires of the prescriptivists is "miss not Xing" in the sense of 'miss Xing'. Here, for example, is Lederer:
Let's look at a number of familiar English words and phrases that turn out to mean the opposite or something very different from what we think they mean: I really miss not seeing you. Whenever people say this to me, I feel like responding, “All right, I'll leave!” Here speakers throw in a gratuitous negative, _not_, even though _I really miss seeing you_ is what they want to say.
OK, a classic instance of hypernegation in colloquial language, presumable edited out of careful prose. The examples I had previously collected are from informal speech, TV dialogue, blogs, etc. But here is Ernest Hemingway, writing in _A Moveable Feast_, describing an ill-fated trip in the 1920's he had taken with Scott Fitzgerald from Paris to Lyon and back. Fitzgerald comes across as gifted but quite unsympathetic--malingering, self-indulgent, drunk, and needy, who is now ordering Hemingway to fetch a thermometer to confirm that he (Fitzgerald) is dying of "congestion of the lungs". Hemingway is fed up, reflecting (at least in retrospect--he actually wrote the manuscript decades later in 1960) as follows:
Scott was lying with with his eyes closed, breathing slowly and carefully and, with his waxy color and his perfect features, he looked like a little dead crusader. I was getting tired of the literary life, if this was the literary life that I was leading, and already I missed not working and I felt the death loneliness that comes at the end of every day that is wasted in your life. I was very tired of Scott and of this silly comedy, but I found the waiter and gave him the money to buy a thermometer and a tube of aspirin and ordered two _citron presse's_ and two double whiskies.
[_A Moveable Feast_, New York: Scribner's Sons, 1964, p. 165-66]
It's clear from the context that what Hemingway reports missing is *working*, not *not working*.
Does anyone have any examples handy of other literary (pleonastic) "miss not"s? I didn't find anything terribly interesting via Google Books, and I couldn't find a relevant entry in the OED under "miss".
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