Date: Mon, 12 Jan 1998 14:06:00 -0500
From: Larry Horn laurence.horn[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]YALE.EDU
Subject: Re: ...NOT!
In connection with Barry's early ...NOT!--
This is from the Cincinnati Times-Star, 26 July 1888, pg. 2, col. 2:
Of course "White Wings" was mourned because he was hissed. Yes he
--this example, antedating our earlier ...NOT/NITs (see esp. Sheidlower &
Lighter's excellent post-mortem in the Summer 1993 Am. Speech), is
consistent with my guess that the earlier examples of the retroactive
cancellation construction are spin-offs of this sort of syntactic blend,
where the ironic dissenter is simultaneously appearing to concede the point
("Yes, it is") while actually refuting it ("No, it is NOT!"). The "not"
may be whispered (as an ironic sotto voce to the audience, as Cary Grant
does it in "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House") or defiantly shouted to
the heavens (as evidently in the case above). The emergence of those
retro-NOTs that follow (and cancel) full sentences, rather than
sentence-final auxiliaries ("Yes, I have...NOT!"), is a partly distinct
phenomenon that seems to peak in cicada-like cycles, most memorably the one
that capped in time for the 1992 WOTY vote. I'm not entirely sure what the
ellipsis in the above example (Yes, he did(n't)--what? be mourned?), but
that's a query for the editor of the no doubt defunct Cincinnati
Times-Star, not for Barry.