Sunday, November 06, 2005

Positive Anymore - What The Heck Does That Mean?

Well, I'll tell you. Have you ever heard someone say something like, "I just take the stairs anymore," or "Anymore you've gotta be careful going out at night"?

Chances are, you're thinking one of two things:

1) Of course - why are you even asking?
2) Of course not - why would anyone talk like that, and what's wrong with them?

The grammatical construction that provokes these two opposing responses is called "positive anymore," because in standard English you can only use 'anymore' in negative constructions. Okay, it's a little more complicated than that, but I don't want to get too technical. Isn't it strange, though, that to some people these sentences seem perfectly normal whereas to others they seem to barely even be English? But that's just the beginning. I think that the groups of people who insist that Positive Anymore is nonsense aren't necessarily the ones who don't use it. This constructions flies under many people's proverbial radar. I have a story that highlights this: I was talking with three people from Denver, when one of them said something like "I really like radicchio anymore." Being a weirdo, I was compelled to point this out. Her landsleit were shocked that anyone would say something like that, but they were even more shocked that they had understood it without evening noticing. Strange, no? Stranger still is that this key feature of dialect can't be neatly summed up by geography - everyone was from Denver.

It's things like that that keep me going: details that show that beneath the calm surface of everyday life are eddies of surprise and wonder. That's what I hope this blog will be about. At least in theory. In practice it will be an outlet for my thoughts about language and music, my two main interests.

Read on and share your thoughts.


Queenie said...

i was poking around the inter-web for a positive anymore isogloss and i stumbled across your blog. i'm totally feeling the ungrammaticality.

Ben said...

Indeed. As far as I'm concerned, ungrammaticality is where it's at!

oakling said...

OH MY GOD THANK YOU. I have loved this construction for years and have never - before tonight - been able to conduct a Google search that gave me more examples or told me what it was called! Or found anyone who understood it! And now I know what it is called! Yaaaaay!

Anonymous said...

The "positive anymore" sounds like something I would hear old people say.

Steph said...

My boyfriend always says anymore in positive construction and I would always criticise him but now I know it's widely used I guess.. it seemed weird to me and I noticed the first time he did it that it sounded wrong.

Anonymous said...

this positive is said a lot throughout the philadelphia area. it is something that kind of just turned into this saying that it is a positive.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I know this post is old as dirt, but I sure hope that unlike 'positive anymore', the substitution of 'even' with 'evening' will not become a mainstay of the American English language!

"but they were even more shocked that they had understood it without evening noticing"

( I realize this may have been intentional. Problem is - one never knows. Stick to proper grammar and spelling and down with 'Positive Anymore' (the construct, not the blog), I say! )

Steve Bryant said...

I found a rough draft of a poem by a onetime Philadelphia resident. Here's the stanza that caught my eye:

But the Raven still beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore —
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking "Anymore."