Absolute "not so much" = "not really"

Sun Jun 27 23:54:21 UTC 2004

        I first heard "not so much" on the sitcom "May About You," where it was a characteristic phrase of the character Paul Buchman, played by the sitcom creator, Paul Reiser.  From a 1992 episode, "Sofa's Choice," first aired on 9/30/1992:  "As a couch, I liked it.  And as a `love seat,' not so much."  It's a humorous phrase whose impact comes from understatement.  I suspect that Reiser popularized it.

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU]On Behalf
Of Jesse Sheidlower
Sent: Sunday, June 20, 2004 10:08 PM
Subject: Absolute "not so much" = "not really"

A friend has observed the recent (?) currency of the phrase
"not so much" used absolutely, i.e. without any following
correlative prepositional phrase or complement, in a meaning
something like 'no; not at all; not really'. He said he first
noticed it as something the Leo McGarry character on _West
Wing_ says. We have only a few examples:

2004 _Hotdog_ Apr. 10/1 A romantic thriller?
Interesting. Starring Josh Hartnett? Not so much.

2004 _N.Y. Times_ 15 June B1 (headline) The Killer Gown Is
Essential, but the Prom Date? Not So Much.

It sounds perfectly natural to me, so of course I can't think
of when I first heard it. Anyone have any grammatical or other
observations? Larry? Arnold?

Jesse Sheidlower

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