Another "nearly" from the wrong side

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Fri Aug 30 00:15:53 UTC 2013

At 8/29/2013 02:09 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
>On Aug 29, 2013, at 1:54 PM, Dan Goncharoff wrote:
> > Does "nearly" have a wrong side? Why can't near-ness be a slightly higher
> > amount? Now if the article had used "almost", I would share your concern.
> >
> > DanG
>For a lot of speakers, "nearly X" shares this
>scalar property with "almost X" and "not quite
>X", all of them suggesting a scalar position
>below or before X(ing), whether X is a number,
>an amount, or a time point/interval.

For me.  But:

>But it can be overridden in context with varying
>degrees of success.  So while "almost/nearly
>started" usually means not yet begun, we can get
>examples like "almost a child" or "almost a
>virgin" in "wrong-side" contexts like
>Anyway, she was only 16. Technically she might
>be an adult but really she was only a child. You
>couldn’t make people who were almost children be
>responsible for dead bodies, could you?
>  —Kate Atkinson, _When Will There Be Good News?_
>or the David Cassidy movie "Almost a
>Virgin".    For me "nearly" works in such cases too, but YMMV.

These do not grate too much on my ear, and I
could imagine myself saying them.  It's clear which direction is intended.

>I do notice a lot of sites for "nearly
>newlyweds", and in particular for the "Nearly
>Newlywed Wedding Dress Boutique" that sells
>"nearly new" dresses, which would be another
>example (=/= not yet new).  To be sure, though,
>someone who is "nearly/almost 21" is
>nearly/almost short of 21, rather than long of it.

I couldn't say "nearly newlyweds", but I could
say "near newlyweds".  I suppose that shows that
for me "nearly" (and a scalar) requires "less
than", whereas one can be "near" something from either side.

As Larry said, YMMV.

Dan wrote:
>In a context with two true sides, like the original example of 'nearly
>half', I am suggesting that 'nearly' means 'not exactly', and that can be
>above or below.

NMM.  Assuming we're talking about a scalar (or any kind of real number).


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