Steve Cotler

Steve Cotler

Being Positive Anymore

Try this experiment? Write a declarative sentence using the word “anymore” that does not include a negative. You are not allowed to split the word into “any more” as in:

“If there are any more interruptions, I shall clear the courtroom.”

I’ll wait while you cogitate…

The vast majority of you will not be able to.

Sentences like…

“I enjoy eating persimmons anymore.”

…will sound awkward or just plain wrong. You will, however, be comfortable saying…

“I don’t enjoy eating persimmons anymore.”

The first time I noticed a speaker use “anymore” without a negative, I asked and learned that she had grown up near Dayton, OH. The second time I heard the locution, I immediately asked the speaker (a woman I had just been introduced to) how close to Dayton was her elementary school. Her jaw dropped. Her childhood home was Yellow Springs, only 20 miles away. This regional origin was borne out over many years and many interrogations, until West Texas was a surprising answer.

I chalked that up to migration or accident, and waited for another similarly located Texan to prove the existence of another anymore-without-a-negative region. It has not happened.

The latest instance occurred a week ago in Needles, CA, where a waitress’s usage prompted me to ask the hometown question.

“San Diego,” she replied. A bit daunted, I persevered. “Where were your parents from?”

Voila! Her mother grew up in Deersville, OH, less than 200 miles from Dayton.

The American Heritage Dictionary offers an explanation:

In standard American English the word anymore is often found in negative sentences: They don’t live here anymore. But anymore is widely used in regional American English in positive sentences with the meaning “nowadays”: “We use a gas stove anymore” (Oklahoma informant). Its use, which appears to be spreading, is centered in the South Midland and Midwestern states, as well as in the Western states that received settlers from those areas. The earliest recorded examples are from Northern Ireland, where the positive use of anymore still occurs.

Mention of Oklahoma may support my lone Texan. But the extreme rarity in my experience of a “positive anymore” belies the AHD’s claim that anymore is widely used in regional American English in positive sentences with the meaning ‘nowadays.'”

Wikipedia says the usage occurs in Midland American English, and that a

“common feature of the greater Midland area is so-called ‘positive anymore‘: It is possible to use the adverb anymore with the meaning ‘nowadays’ in sentences without negative polarity, such as Air travel is inconvenient anymore.”

I’m not satisfied with these explanations. I think I’ll investigate this anymore.

One Comment

  1. Nigel says:

    I had a girlfriend born in California but raised in Nebraska who also deployed this odd usage. “Anymore, it’s how people communicate.” I attribute it to her Midwesterness, as I would occasionally encounter this in Iowa.

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