Absolute "not so much" = "not really"

Carolina Jimenez-Marcos cjm at MAIL.UTEXAS.EDU
Mon Jun 28 10:53:52 UTC 2004

This "not so much" is not so much "not really" as it is "no" or "not at
all". Did the ever-original "Friends" writers popularize a certain rhythm
to it? Probably. Were they the first to use it that way? Not so much.
"Friends" puts this phrase in the mouth of at least four of the characters
and in many episodes. It became predictable comedic patter, and shows up in
the speech and webspeech of my generation and younger much more often since
the later "Friends" years. Not a bad argument for the TV phenomenon.

Below is a use of the "not so much" as "no" in a headline that pre-dates
the show. Notice that it doesn't have a question or ellipse and then short
"not so much" that is typical today. (You could still argue that there is
an understood "not so much the money [as a matter of pride]".)

HEADLINE: How many kids did Elvis have? Nine --- or one? It's not so much
the money, although 'The King' left $200 million --there's prestige at
stake among the claimants to the Presley name
The Toronto Star
May 17, 1987

Here is an online chat site showing that the "Friends" rhythm is so popular
that it has become a cliche in our generation.
I've noticed that the "? nsm" and "... nsm" structures have attained plague
status among newspaper headline writers this year.


At 01:17 PM 6/25/2004 -0400, you wrote:
>---------------------- Information from the mail header
>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Poster:       Douglas Bigham <TlhovwI at AOL.COM>
>Subject:      Re: Absolute "not so much" = "not really"
>So, this "not so much" thing still sounds very new/affected even though I use
>it quite often.  It still feels like a quote, and sure enough... here it is
>in "Friends".  I have no doubt that that's where I got it from, but I won't
>guess about the origin.
>I found this "Friends" transcript online (http://www.eigo-i.com/friends/).
>Douglas S. Bigham

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