"I cannot emphasize"

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Fri Apr 23 20:36:43 UTC 2010

My immediate reaction was "enough".


Lance Black: “I apologize & cannot emphasize enough the importance of
responsible sexual practices”

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a good teacher.

And, specifically with "how important":

I can't emphasize enough how important it is for young people to get
involved, and help put an end to the Blago/Quinn corruption in IL!

Ms K, I cannot emphasize enough how important proper exfoliation is.

I can't emphasize enough how important it is for one to complete his or
her undergraduate degree...

Then, there is this one:

Agree and cannot emphasize enough to see the doctor ASAP.

There is no issue with "emphasize", but the complement made me stumble
before parsing the whole thing. Maybe it's just my tin ESL ear.


On 4/23/2010 12:21 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
> At 8:46 AM -0700 4/23/10, Arnold Zwicky wrote:
>> On Apr 23, 2010, at 7:12 AM, Joel S. Berson wrote:
>> [html code stripped]
>>> What category does this fit into?  Written about e-Bay.
>>> I cannot emphasize how important it is to check on shipping costs,
>>> which can vary wildly.
>> it looks like a (venial) type of undernegation, with the negative
>> polarity element "too much" suppressed, presumably because it can be
>> supplied by the cooperative reader/hearer, perhaps on the grounds that
>> the high-end-of-scale understanding is already provided by "how Adj"
>> 'very Adj' and doesn't need further expression in "too much".  no
>> doubt larry horn can comment.
> I was thinking "cannot overemphasize" might be another source, but I
> see from googling that "cannot stress how" is also incredibly common,
> and "overstress" is much rarer than "overemphasize", so I agree that
> it's more likely a matter of incorporating an "enough" or "too much"
> into the verb itself in these contexts.  Maybe the speaker thinks
> that to say one "can't emphasize enough/too much how [+ high scalar
> adj]" is emphasizing it too much, so the reanalysis to "can't
> emphasize how [+ high scalar adj]" is emphasizing it enough.
> LH
>> certainly "I cannot emphasize how" is incredibly common.  a very few
>> examples from among many:
>>    Rest and Eat Well. I cannot emphasize how important this is. I had
>> to learn the hard way.
>>    http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090225213116AAvL5jR
>>    I cannot emphasize how fantastic the pizza is at Al Forno, and what
>> a tragedy it will be if you leave this place without having tried it.
>>    http://www.yelp.com/biz/al-forno-restaurant-providence
>>    Your research is one of the most important parts of your project.
>> It is the basis for what you will be presenting to the judges. I
>> cannot emphasize how important understanding the correct background
>> information is.
>>    http://www.sciencebuddies.org/mentoring/top_science-
>> fair_success.shtml
>> fair number of examples on GB.  but all the examples that come easily
>> to hand strike me as informal in tone.  though probably an industrious
>> ADS-Ler can find more elevated or "serious" examples.  i'm inclined to
>> think that this is a language change that has already happened.
>> arnold

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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