Absolute "not so much" = "not really"

Tue Jun 29 03:24:31 UTC 2004

        Mad About You predated Friends, which didn't start until 1994.  My bet is that Paul Reiser did not originate "not so much" but did popularize it.  Friends, and perhaps other sitcoms, then starting using the same comic phrase.

        Of course, everyone was saying "not so much" long before Reiser said it in 1992.  What Reiser changed was to make it a humorous stand-along phrase, instead of an explicit comparison.

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU]On Behalf
Of Carolina Jimenez-Marcos
Sent: Monday, June 28, 2004 6:54 AM
Subject: Re: Absolute "not so much" = "not really"

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

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