# Another "nearly" from the wrong side

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Fri Aug 30 00:22:16 UTC 2013

```At 8/29/2013 03:05 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
>On Aug 29, 2013, at 2:24 PM, Dan Goncharoff wrote:
>
> > I would argue the word 'nearly' doesn't suggest "a scalar position below or
> > before X(ing, but the context does.
>
>I suspect, based on some informal empirical
>surveys I've done in connection with working on
>approximatives, that there's too much variation
>on this to make the case that what "nearly"
>means for you is what it means (for
>everyone).   Let's stick with numbers: the
>problem is that there's an asymmetry based on
>the fact that numbers form a scale.  If I say
>I'm 21, I can be speaking the truth in many
>contexts even if I'm (well) over 21, but not if
>I'm under 21 (even though sometimes we might let
>it go as an approximation if I'm 19 or 20, while
>still conceding that it's strictly false).    So
>it's not obviously the case that you're either
>21 or you aren't.  If I say she's not 18, this
>can be used depending on the context to convey
>that she isn't exactly 18 or that she's 17 or
>less. (It can't convey that she's 19 or more.)

For [spoiler: not PC] women "of a certain age",*
it can convey that she's older than that
age.  "She's not 30 [any more]".  To pick out
only the OED's most succinct example:

* I like Byron's succinct definition:
1823   Byron Don Juan: Canto VI lxix. 35   A lady
of a certain age, which means Certainly aged.

Joel

>Since "nearly X" can be understood as entailing
>'not X' as well as 'close to X', it can be used
>in these two different ways:  'not exactly X' and 'less than but!
>   close to X'.  If it only had the first
> meaning all the time, we'd predict that "She's
> nearly 21" would sound as natural for 22 or 23
> year olds as it does for 19 or 20 year olds,
> and for most speakers (not just Joel and me) it simply doesn't.
>
>LH
>
>P.S.  And this isn't a matter of 21 conveying
>adulthood.  Other numbers will do as well, so if
>I said I'm nearly 70 most people would probably
>guess (correctly) that I'm in my late 60s, but
>probably not, ceteris paribus, that I'm 71 or 72.
>
> > There is no wrong side of new -- it's
> > new or it's not. Similarly, there is no wrong side of 21 -- you're either
> > 21 and over, or you're not. You've either started or you haven't.
> >
> > 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.
> >
> > DanG
> >
> >
> > On Thu, Aug 29, 2013 at 2:09 PM, Laurence
> Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu>wrote:
> >
> >> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> >> -----------------------
> >> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> >> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> >> Subject:      Re: Another "nearly" from the wrong side
> >>
> >>
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >>
> >> 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.
> >> 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.  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.
> >>
> >> LH
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>>
> >>>
> >>> On Thu, Aug 29, 2013 at 1:49 PM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at att.net> wrote:
> >>>
> >>>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> >>>> -----------------------
> >>>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> >>>> Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> >>>> Subject:      Another "nearly" from the wrong side
> >>>>
> >>>>
> >>
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >>>>
> >>>> "Ackerman disclosed that he sold 39.1 million shares to the bank for
> >>>> \$12.60 per share ... That's nearly half of the average \$25 a share
> >>>> that he paid when he first invested in Penney in 2010."
> >>>>
> >>>> For me, "nearly half" would be \$12.40 a share.  Although I suppose
> >>>> that if one is watching one's investment on its way down, \$12.60 is
> >>>> nearly \$12.50.
> >>>>
> >>>> "Ackerman takes a \$400m bath on J.C. Penney".  Anne d'Innocenzio,
> >>>> Associated Press.  August 29.
> >>>>
> >>>> Joel
> >>>>
> >>>> ------------------------------------------------------------
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> >>>>
> >>>
> >>> ------------------------------------------------------------
> >>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
> >>
> >> ------------------------------------------------------------
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> >>
> >
> > ------------------------------------------------------------
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>
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