[Ads-l] New (to me) negative polarity item--"(not) have the bandwidth" as metaphor

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Jun 20 19:21:48 UTC 2016

But again, not having the time (because of other obligations or whatever) isn't quite the same as not having the energy and certainly isn't equivalent to not having the mental capacity.  Here's someone asking the same question, so at least others have wondered about it:

Maybe not having the energy to do something has been reanalyzed by some as not having the time to do it?


> On Jun 20, 2016, at 2:32 PM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> Oxford Dictionaries defines the metaphorical extension as "the energy or
> mental capacity required to deal with a situation," which sounds about
> right.
> https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__www.oxforddictionaries.com_definition_english_bandwidth&d=CwIBaQ&c=-dg2m7zWuuDZ0MUcV7Sdqw&r=wFp3X4Mu39hB2bf13gtz0ZpW1TsSxPIWYiZRsMFFaLQ&m=ZrLFIz_lwKNf8zyC50cd1Ky6uKq4aXeskeLILY0Cc9A&s=pf-IFvJxaPAWeBIYgXsTx4-r6IF6maR6a2zZMrwGIxo&e= 
> On Mon, Jun 20, 2016 at 2:26 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu>
> wrote:
>> (3) is what I take to be the literal meaning, and (2) is a different
>> metaphorical use.  (1) is the closest to the relevant use (= to lack the
>> time to do something because of too many other commitments), but if I
>> explain "I can't help you send out the mailers because with the new job and
>> the baby I simply don't have the bandwidth" it's not clear I'm talking
>> about information volume, so I do think this is an additional broadening.
>> LH
>>> On Jun 20, 2016, at 2:14 PM, Dave Wilton <dave at WILTON.NET> wrote:
>>> It's at least 20 years old.
>>> From The Jargon File (4.4.7), 29 Dec 2003 (That's the version that's
>> online
>>> now; I don't know when this entry was written):
>>> "bandwidth: n.
>>> "1. [common] Used by hackers (in a generalization of its technical
>> meaning)
>>> as the volume of information per unit time that a computer, person, or
>>> transmission medium can handle. 'Those are amazing graphics, but I missed
>>> some of the detail - not enough bandwidth, I guess.' Compare
>> low-bandwidth;
>>> see also brainwidth. This generalized usage began to go mainstream after
>> the
>>> Internet population explosion of 1993-1994.
>>> "2. Attention span.
>>> "3. On Usenet, a measure of network capacity that is often wasted by
>> people
>>> complaining about how items posted by others are a waste of bandwidth."
>>> -----Original Message-----
>>> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On
>> Behalf Of
>>> Laurence Horn
>>> Sent: Monday, June 20, 2016 1:12 PM
>>> Subject: [ADS-L] New (to me) negative polarity item--"(not) have the
>>> bandwidth" as metaphor
>>> Here's urban dictionary:
>>> ability (or lack of ability) to complete work given the available
>> resources
>>> (people, time, money, etc.)
>>> Since we can't afford to replace the guy who just quit, our department
>>> doesn't have enough bandwidth to take on new projects right now.
>>> Joe's so overworked, he doesn't even have the bandwidth to train his new
>>> assistant.
>>> #work #time #ability #capacity #workload by amphora October 25, 2006
>>> ==============
>>> My daughter (age 31) just used it in referring to a friend who, given her
>>> 12-hour shifts at her new nursing job, "doesn't have the bandwidth" for
>>> various other things.  Not being 31 (and not having a boyfriend at
>> Google),
>>> I'd never encountered metaphorical bandwidth before.  I haven't checked
>>> "Among The New Words", which probably has a relevant decade-old entry.
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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