The flood that no one has been unable to stem

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That would be the flood of misnegations… John Shinal, "Analysis: Will too many cooks spoil a Microsoft revival?", USA Today 2/14/2014:

Nokia and Microsoft have both been drowned out in a market flood that neither Elop nor anyone at Microsoft, including outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer, has been unable to stem.

 [Tip of the hat to Rick Rubenstein]



  1. Ralph Hickok said,

    February 15, 2014 @ 9:08 am

    "Stem a flood" doesn't sound right to me. Maybe it's because "stem a tide" is a much more common usage?

    [(myl) Maybe less much than you might think…]

  2. Mara K said,

    February 15, 2014 @ 10:55 am

    Following your link to Google NGrams, I compared "stem a flood" and "stem a tide" to "stem THE flood" and "stem THE tide." Of these, "stem the tide is far and away the most common, which may explain why the variants that include "flood" sound weird.

  3. Eric P Smith said,

    February 15, 2014 @ 4:01 pm

    I'm wondering how no-one at Microsoft can include Steve Ballmer.

    I suspect part of the reason for the writer’s confusion is that he has followed the negative “nor anyone” by the positive “including Steve Ballmer” in the same compound subject. If he had said “not even Steve Ballmer” then perhaps “has been able to stem” might have followed more naturally.

  4. pj said,

    February 17, 2014 @ 2:51 pm

    More for the annals of misnegation from British journalist AA Gill's review of Morrissey's autobiography, which has won the 'Hatchet Job of the Year' award from a literary review website, The Omnivore. AA Gill, for the record, is a man who divides opinion, broadly into a) those who consider him an irredeemably loathsome, baboon-shooting snob, b) those who consider him personally pretty loathsome but nonetheless an inarguably adept and entertaining stylist, and c) those who consider him a brilliant writer and the snobbish and contrarian persona all part of the fun.

    Anyway, the award-winning review, which appeared in the Sunday Times, contains three (at least – I've not read it terribly closely through) misnegations:

    The book’s publication was late and trade gossip has it that Steve insisted on each and every bookshop taking a minimum order of two dozen, misunderstanding how modern publishing works. But this is not unsurprising when you read the book. He is constantly moaning about record producers not pressing enough discs to get him to No 1.

    No teacher is too insignificant not to be humiliated from the heights of success, no slight is too small not to be rehashed with a final, killing esprit d’escalier.

    Pace camp a), I do not think he is a careless or inept writer; and I think the Sunday Times is probably pretty thoroughly edited. So it's interesting that those – to me evident – errors survive.

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