hypernegative "miss not" in Hemingway

Eric Nielsen ericbarnak at GMAIL.COM
Sat Oct 8 07:23:49 UTC 2011

"I miss not being there" seems to be fairly common: 36 results in GB;
210,000 results in plain old Goog.


On Fri, Oct 7, 2011 at 4:14 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu>wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      hypernegative "miss not" in Hemingway
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> 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, =93All right, I'll leave!=94 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:
> =3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D
> 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.
> =3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D
> [_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*.=20
> 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".
> LH=
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