positive anymore

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Fri May 19 16:10:58 UTC 2006

As a native speaker of a dialect that does not use "positive anymore," allow me to add that when I first heard it (sentence-initially, of course) my reaction was similar to Chris's:  I thought I knew what the speaker was trying to say, but the sense of weirdness was so strong as to make me doubt it.  Decades later, the sense of weirdness has mostly disappeared, but I still feel unable to use the word in a sentence with complete confidence that I knew what I was talking about.

  "Might could" struck me as very weird for a long time, but not nearly as strange as this.


"Chris F. Waigl" <chris at LASCRIBE.NET> wrote:
  ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: "Chris F. Waigl"
Organization: rather inconsistent
Subject: Re: positive anymore

On Thu, 2006-05-18 at 15:02 -0400, Beverly Flanigan wrote:

> And of course positive "anymore" can appear sentence-initially, -medially,
> or -finally. The first question I got was "But what does it MEAN?"

This non-native speaker finds it extremely hard to intuitively grasp
positive anymore: I keep repeating to myself "substitute 'nowadays',
substitute 'nowadays' -- and look if it makes any sense". The problem
is: my brain wants to latch on "still".

Let me illustrate this the way I used to back when I taught English to
teenagers -- it's prettier in coloured chalk on a blackboard, but if you
use a fixed-width font, you'll see what I mean.[1]

Let's look at a "state" (something that might or might not be true at
any given point in time) and the four basic "change of state" adverbs.
For example: "The milk is [not yet|still|not anymore|now] hot." [modulo
adverb placement]

There's a time axis to the right; an x denotes a moment when the
utterance is true, an underscore one when it is false:

------------------------------------------------------> T
past present future

not yet _________________________|_________xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

still xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx|xxxxxxxxx_____________________

not anymore xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx_______|______________________________

now(adays) __________________xxxxxxx|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

So "not anymore" means something like "it used to be true, but stopped
being true some time in the past, isn't true now and probably won't be
true in the future, at least not without external intervention."

If I take away the "not", how much of this gets reversed? What my
intuition would like to do is just to negate the crucial bit in the
middle, i.e. to extend the "truth period" beyond "now" and make it stop
being true only some time in the future, as opposed to some time in the
past. This comes down to the sense of "still".

What "positive anymore" apparently does, however, is to reverse the
entire shebang ("it used to be false, but became true some time in the
past, is true now and probably will be true in the future, if nothing
external comes in and stops it").

In the "need + past participle" department, I came across this on the
blog of a Saville Row tailor, who splits his time between London, trips
to big cities (esp. in the US) and Cumbria, where he has his workshop
and grew up. So despite his travels, I doubt there's an influence from
Ohio/Pennsylvania. He recounts an experience with a particular customer:

I was perhaps a little over-optimistic on how fitted I wanted to make
the jacket. He was a little concerned with the weight he'd put on with
all the travelling. No problem, this is what it's all about. I'd re-cut
it and all would be well. After another few months we got together
again. We could've tweaked the jacket and the suit would have gone home
to its new owner. But I wasn't happy; the coat needed let out further.

Chris Waigl

[1] The way I usually did this was to focus on actions or events, and
graph "already", "not yet", "never" and "ever" [the last two because
they are hard for French native speakers, who tend to erroneously
believe that "never" corresponds to "jamais"], and then throw in "still"
and "not anymore".

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