Higashi Day cartoon 3: sentence-initial anymore

Background, from my 3/12/20 posting “Higashi Day cartoon 1: grim Bliss surprise” about the series of 6 cartoon postings (of which this is the 3rd)

to celebrate March 15th: Higashi Day, formerly known in these parts as (spring) Removal Day, marking the day when, for roughly 10 years in the fabled past, Jacques and I set off to car-trek east, from Palo Alto (and Stanford) to Columbus OH (and Ohio State).

The Frazz strip of March 8th:

(#1) School custodian Edwin “Frazz” Frazier and 8-year-old bored genius Caulfield take on “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”

In more or less reverse order: (a) the positive anymore of Caulfield’s

(ex1) Anymore, I just believe what rhymes

in the last panel; (b) the song and some of its most famous performances; and (c) the quote in the first panel,

(ex2) Believe half of what you see, and none of what you hear

Positive anymore. For most speakers of English, the adverb anymore is a negative polarity item, occurring only in negative contexts. As in this  P.C. Vey cartoon from the New Yorker of 8/22/16:


Similarly, They don’t read anymore, but not (for the majority of speakers), Everyone reads anymore ‘Everyone reads nowadays’ — an instance of positive anymore.

More famously, from the Wizard of Oz movie: Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore, often quoted, but rarely with all the details right, though they all have anymore within the scope of a negative. This one is close to the model:


But then in my 1/28/15 posting “Zippy’s in Kansas anymore”:

The title of this posting takes off from the quotation “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore” (with the negative polarity item anymore), from the movie The Wizard of Oz, but uses positive anymore (anymore in a positive context, roughly conveying ‘now, nowadays’).

In the strip, Zippy is in fact in Kansas.

Back in March — yes, I am desperately backed up with my postings — on ADS-L Amy West posted about the Frazz strip in #1, which has not just positive anymore, but sentence-initial positive anymore (Anymore, I just believe what rhymes), which she noted was a construction that fellow ADS-Ler Wilson Gray had frequently noted as characteristically AAVE (in the sense that black speakers use the construction frequently and naturally, not that only black speakers use it). Caulfield in Frazz (#1 above) is, of course, black, so it’s not a surprising construction for him to use.

My impression, like Wilson’s, is that the construction is especially at home in American black speech, but I know of no studies that look carefully at the actual statistics (and such studies aren’t easy to do). The Yale Grammatical Diversity Project (English in North America) on positive anymore recognizes the special status of initial positive anymore, but assigns no sociolinguistic label to it — on:

the usage of the word anymore in a non-negative context with a meaning similar to nowadays

Even in the small towns anymore, it’s getting like that.

… For some speakers who accept sentences like [this], anymore may occur at the start of an utterance

Anymore, John smokes.

“I Heard It Through the Grapevine”. From Wikipedia:

“I Heard It Through the Grapevine” is a song written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong for Motown Records in 1966. The first recording of the song to be released was produced by Whitfield for Gladys Knight & the Pips and released as a single in September 1967

… The Miracles first recorded the song on August 16, 1966 … The Marvin Gaye version was placed on his 1968 album In the Groove … The Gaye recording has since become an acclaimed soul classic

… In addition to being released several times by Motown artists, the song has been recorded by a range of musicians including Creedence Clearwater Revival

… in 1986, Buddy Miles was the singer for the clay animation group The California Raisins which sang it as part a TV advertising campaign.

You can listen to the Gaye recording here (#4). The crucial lyrics:

Say believe half of what you see
Oh, ho, and none of what you hear

Baby baby, but I just can’t help bein’ confused
If it’s true please baby, won’t ya tell me dear

And you can view the California Raisins ad here (#5).

Notes on Whitfield and Strong:

Norman Jesse Whitfield (May 12, 1940 – September 16, 2008) was an American songwriter and producer, who worked with Berry Gordy’s Motown labels during the 1960s. He has been credited as one of the creators of the Motown Sound and of the late-1960s subgenre of psychedelic soul. (Wikipedia link)

Barrett Strong (born February 5, 1941) is an American singer and songwriter. Strong was the first artist to record a hit for Motown, although he is best known for his work as a songwriter, particularly in association with producer Norman Whitfield. Among his most famous work at Motown, Strong wrote the lyrics for many of the songs recorded by the Temptations. (Wikipedia link)

On believing what you hear. Back on 3/8, Quote Investigator Garson O’Toole posted this on ADS-L:

Comic readers who are intrigued by the history of the saying discussed in the strip [(#1 above)] may find this citation interesting.

“You are young yet, my friend,” replied my host, “but the time will arrive when you will learn to judge for yourself of what is going on in the world, without trusting to the gossip of others. Believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see.

Edgar Allan Poe in “The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether”
November 1845, Graham’s American Monthly Magazine of Literature and Art (Quote Investigator link)

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