miss not

A Pickles cartoon posted by Andy Rogers on Facebook:

Andy’s comment: “Negation is SO CONFUSING!” Actually, most people seem not to be confused by such negation examples, and in fact tend not to notice that there’s anything notable about things like “I miss not having the morning newspaper”, which they read as just emphatic negation.

The topic comes up periodically on Language Log. Here’s Mark Liberman on 11/16/04, considering this quote (emphasis added):

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said today he has “thoroughly enjoyed” working with Secretary of State Colin Powell and “will miss not working closely with him” after Powell steps down from his post.

Mark comments:

As we’ve frequently documented, overnegations are easy to fail to miss. [yes, it’s an inside joke] And this one — “miss not VERBing …” in the meaning “feel the lack or loss of VERBing …” rather than “feel the lack or loss of not VERBing” — has become a widespread (if not universally accepted) idiom. I checked 10 instances at random from the first 150 produced by a Google search for “miss not”, and found that 8 of them were overnegations … versus 2 that were not.

Then Mark again in “Miss not” on 2/3/11, talking about a Beetle Bailey cartoon:

This morning I checked COCA, and found 28 instances of “miss not”. Of these, 8 were completely different sorts of constructions (“…miss not just/only … but also …”, “His choice essentially came down to TCU or Ole Miss- not exactly the Floridas and Texases of the world”, etc.), and the other twenty were instances of this idiom.

There is some quasi-prescriptive discussion  here and here, but “miss not VERBing” doesn’t seem to be very high on the collective peeve list.

Notes on the cartoon Pickles. From Wikipedia:

Pickles is a daily and Sunday comic strip by Brian Crane focusing on a retired couple in their seventies, Earl and Opal Pickles. Inspired by Crane’s in-laws, the strip describes their efforts to enjoy retirement, which instead proves quite imperfect for both.

Earl is characterized as having a bald head, glasses, and a bushy white mustache, and wears suspenders. Opal is characterized as somewhat chubby, bespectacled, and is often seen wearing purple polka-dotted dresses and white sneakers. When sitting, she is usually seen with her pet cat in her lap. Both characters were drawn with their eye pupils visible through their glasses during the strip’s early years, but their glasses were later whitened so that they are opaque to readers. [note opaque glasses above]

The comic is set in Crane’s hometown of Sparks, Nevada. The cast includes their dog Roscoe and their cat Muffin; their grandson Nelson Wolfe and his parents– their daughter Sylvia and her husband Dan, a wildlife photographer.

Pickles has been published since 1990.

One earlier Pickles on this blog: “Anatomical portmanteaus” of 6/19/11.

One Response to “miss not”

  1. Ben Zimmer Says:

    And here’s a “miss not” from Hagar the Horrible in 2005.

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