not too shabby (1969)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Sat Dec 18 00:59:42 UTC 2004

On Fri, 17 Dec 2004 18:20:02 -0600, Mullins, Bill
<Bill.Mullins at US.ARMY.MIL> wrote:

>Theater: Hermione Baddeley Speaks to a Lobster
>New York Times (1857-Current file); Feb 6, 1968; ProQuest Historical
>Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2001)
>pg. 36/3
>"Neither Miss Baddely, done up in what looks to be a gray wig and not
>overly frumpy dress, nor Stewart Chaney, who provided the elaborately
>realistic set representing the charwoman's not too shabby flat, can give
>real life to a play which, actually is just one long gust of exposition."

Noticed that one, but I don't think that's the idiomatic usage of "not too
shabby" (an example of litotes like "not bad").  Canby's usage can be
understood literally to mean that the charwoman's flat is not excessively
shabby (dingy, run-down).

--Ben Zimmer

>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Benjamin Zimmer [mailto:bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU]
>> Sent: Friday, December 17, 2004 5:16 PM
>> Subject: not too shabby (1969)
>> OED3 has 1975 for the litotic phrase "not (too) shabby".
>> Great Bend (Kansas) Daily Tribune, Apr 22, 1969, p. 6 The
>> Black Panthers' 880-yard relay quartet of Bruce Huss, Jim
>> Greene, Bob Oliver and Robinson grabbed another first in the
>> not-too-shabby time of 1:32.3.
>> (Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin) Daily Tribune, Nov 12, 1969, p.
>> 7 But Coatta said Wisconsin's passing game was not too shabby.
>> Great Bend (Kansas) Daily Tribune, Dec 2, 1969, p. 6
>> Actually, that isn't too shabby an effort for one of the
>> youngest basketball teams of its kind in the state.
>> Great Bend (Kansas) Daily Tribune, Dec 4, 1969, p. 6 His
>> defensive work wasn't at all shabby Tuesday.
>> Great Bend (Kansas) Daily Tribune, Dec 11, 1969, p. 6 The
>> Buffaloes' Stark grabbed 27 points in their 67-55 triumph
>> over Dodge City Tuesday night to give him a 24-point average
>> in two league games. Not too shabby.

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