"not so much"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Mon Dec 13 22:55:08 UTC 2010

I've been hearing this interjection almost daily on TV news for two or three
years.  Literally it means either "not very much" (e.g., "Did you like X?"
"Not so much.") or else, to emphasize a specific contrast, "not as much"
(e.g., "A dog will guard your house; a cat [pause for effect] not so much."

For some people it is now on its way to becoming "definitely not" or even
a simple "no."  This morning a CNN anchor reported on Vladimir Putin's
singing debut. After a clip of his less-than-smash performance, she simply
said, "Not so much" in descending tones that made it clear she *did not*
mean, "Not so much singing, Vlad! It's awful!"

And this, from

"Did fellow lightning-rod gals Kate Gosselin and Sarah Palin become BFFs
while camping in Alaska for Palin's TLC show? Not so much!"

It reminds me of the advent of "totally" in the late '70s.  It started
slowly and in contexts that were barely distinguishable from standard usage
(see esp. _Halloween_, the source that brought it to my attention).  Soon
it was displacing "definitely."

"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

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

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