Where did the phrase "not so much" come from?

This is a discussion thread · 9 replies
1 2
Guest:
I've recently started hearing all sorts of folks use variations on "Yeah, not so much" as a sarcastic response to a question posed. It's even listed in www.urbandictionary.com as such. But who started it? Usually a phrase that becomes a part of society originates in a fairly visible place... A TV show, a movie, New Yorkers, the West Coast?

It's really been bugging me... any ideas out there?
Thread is locked
Thank you for the pointer to Urban Dictionary. I’ve saved it as a favourite and hope to poke around there some more. I checked around a little on more traditional language sites but couldn’t bring anything up. “Not so much” is a bit cooler than neutral but not as sarcastic as ending a statement with not, “he’s a nice guy – not”. I noticed in 1999 that gals from Japan were saying so so in the same way. These things must blow around like coughs and colds!
Full Member252
Thread is locked
"Not so much" is a phrase that was started on the television show "Brady Bunch" it made its first appearance in episode #73 season 3. It caught on like wildfire for the first two years and has been making a big comeback. It was used in a Nixon speech, and became a household word by '75. The words "not" "much" and "so" had never been used in the same sentence before that episode...... Either that, or it is simply a literal and neutral phrase that has nothing to do with slang. "not" is there to negate the statement. "so" is there to clarify the intensity of the "much", and "much" is there as a positive word, meaning "yes, a good amount", which is negated by the "not" Emotion: rolleyes Emotion: rolleyes
New Member21
Thread is locked
It has been part of the English language for as long as I remember. Do you like it ? Not so much. Been around since doomsday.
Regular Member664
Teachers: Users in this role are certified teachers. This may include DELTA, CELTA, TESOL, TEFL qualified professionals. Email a scan of your qualification to an admin, if you wish to be considered.
Thread is locked
Anonymous:
did anyone ever answer this? from yiddish. from aaron sorkin sports night/west wing.....?
Thread is locked
Anonymous:
while maybe not the original innovator, Jon Stewart uses it very effectively and popularly on The Daily Show.
Thread is locked
Anonymous:
See the following article (also pasted below): http://www.azcentral.com/ent/pop/articles/1031catchphrases1031.html

"Not so much" makes a famous appearance in the "Borat" movie.

Snappy? Sure. Original? Not so much

Daniel Weiss
Columbia News Service
Oct. 31, 2006 12:00 AM

NEW YORK -- The front page of a recent issue of the Austin American-Statesman asks of congressional lobbying shenanigans: "Scandal breeds reform? Not so much."

An entry on the media gossip site Gawker.com observes, "Tom Cruise can conquer the world--but a car door, not so much."

And the talk-show host Jon Stewart responds this way when asked which Democrat he saw stepping forward to lead the party:

"I like this guy John Kennedy. Since him, not so much."

Everywhere you look these days, it seems someone is dismissing something with those three loaded words.

Helen Anders, the copy editor who wrote the American-Statesman headline, said she first heard the phrase when her 20-something daughter used it to slough off the idea of dating a potential suitor: "Yeah, not so much," her daughter said.

"You can almost mentally see someone hurling the idea into the trash can," Anders, 54, said of the phrase.

"Not so much" is just one of a series of contagious phrases to take hold in recent years. Not so long ago, every other sentence trailed off into "yada yada yada." Before that, everyone had "been there, done that." And more recently, if you asked too many questions about something, you might be told quite simply: "It is what it is."

But how do these phrases come into vogue? It helps, of course, to have a celebrity standard bearer. For the phrase "not so much," that would be Stewart, host of Comedy Central's "Daily Show." He famously gives the words an expert, drawn-out delivery, pausing to consider whether the subject at hand passes muster before nailing it with a "not so much."

Though the phrase has become widely identified with Stewart, it appeared on several other television shows dating back to the early 1990s, including "Mad About You" and "Friends." But it didn't achieve widespread popularity until the beginning of the current decade, when it began to appear on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

It sneaked into the vernacular by becoming what linguists call a "camouflaged form" of speech, said Michael Adams, professor of English at Indiana University and author of "Slayer Slang: A Buffy the Vampire Slayer Lexicon."

"It would be very easy for it to migrate, because it would change its meaning just a little bit every time it got used until suddenly it was that dismissive not so much.' "

Pinpointing exactly when that transition occurred is difficult, if not impossible.

Adams says that even a phrase as distinctive as "yada yada yada," which was hailed by many as a creation of the television show "Seinfeld," turned out to have been used by the comedian Lenny Bruce in the 1960s.

While Buffy may not have coined "not so much," the show's language was unusually experimental and influential, including such neologisms as "afterness," "heart-of-darknessy" and "suckage."

Before its writers tackled "not so much," they had already pushed "so" and "much" into novel roles.

"We so need to get out of here," a character would say at a precarious moment, or "Morbid much?" when another dwelt on gory details. Before long, "not so much" was a regular part of Buffy's linguistic arsenal.

"You've changed," Buffy once said to a character whose appearance had improved after he got his soul back. "Not so much with the crazy."

And when another character said, "Willow's good at all that computer stuff, but me, not so much," a thousand punch lines, online quips and newspaper headlines followed.

If others pioneered "not so much," Stewart has put his unique stamp on the phrase. The way he delivers it brings out a certain foreign quality in the sequence of words.

"It's a little bit backward," said Grant Barrett, editor of "The Official Dictionary of Unofficial English." "It seems to bring to mind the you want I should' kind of construction we get from Yiddish: You want I should call you in the morning?' "

A 34-year-old New Jersey woman who runs a blog called "Eh . . . Not So Much" (eh-notsomuch.livejournal.com/tag/tv) says she likes the phrase because it is "Seinfeldy"--skeptical and cynical, but not completely in your face.

The woman, a data processor who asked to remain anonymous so her conservative parents wouldn't read her left-of-center postings, added, "You know, it's like, Is the president completely telling the truth about this? Eh . . . not so much.' "

Like any popular phrase worth its salt, "not so much" has been featured in a number of T-shirt designs, including one for dog lovers that reads: "My Golden Makes Me Happy. You--Not So Much."

The phrase has even been adopted by Borat, the Kazakh journalist character played by the British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen. When Borat showed up at the gates of the White House recently bearing an invitation to a screening of his film for President Bush, a Secret Service agent asked him whether he had an appointment. "Uh, not so much," he replied.

For some, "not so much" has become too ubiquitous for its own good. Joel Keller, a 35-year-old freelance writer in New Jersey, said that the first time he came across the phrase, it made him laugh. The five-thousandth time, well, not so much. Now, he claims, every blogger who wants to make a joke just writes, "This thing is something and this--not so much."

But Adams, the Buffy scholar, argues that "not so much" still has some life in it. Compared with phrases like "been there, done that" and "it is what it is," which have been dulled by overuse, "not so much," for now, still has a distinct meaning and feel.

"It's like fashion," Adams said. There are other ways of being dismissive, but none with quite the same style.

"'Not so much' is the way you want to sound in a situation," he said. "And so you put it on."
Thread is locked
Thanks, Anon-- a good read.
Veteran Member88,926
SystemAdministrator: A system administrator takes care of the inner workings of the entire system. These users have the ability to promote, ban and modify other users.Teachers: Users in this role are certified teachers. This may include DELTA, CELTA, TESOL, TEFL qualified professionals. Email a scan of your qualification to an admin, if you wish to be considered.
Thread is locked
Anonymous:
"not so much"

Perhaps it was Baron Pierre De Coubertin's quotes (as the article* implies), or not.
However, the article surely shows that the phrase is dated from 1948 Britain.

* "The Olympic Games"
Thursday July 29, 1948
Guardian Unlimited
http://politics.guardian.co.uk/politicspast/comment/0,,893509,00.html
"...that the important thing is not so much winning as taking part, not so much conquering

as fighting well."
Thread is locked
Show more
Live chat
Registered users can join here