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From Senator Maria Cantwell's Facebook wall:

Any attempt to say that Judge Gorsuch is not anything but overly qualified for this job is blasphemous.

Misnegation, or not? The layered uses of any make the calculation harder.

According to my calculations,

Kim is anything but happy → Kim is unhappy.
Kim is not anything but happy → Kim is happy.

Any attempt to say that Kim is anything but happy is blasphemous → 
    It's blasphemous to say that Kim is unhappy.
Any attempt to say that Kim is not anything but happy is blasphemous → 
    It's blasphemous to say that Kim is happy.

Any attempt to say that Judge Gorsuch is not anything but overly qualified
                                                            is blasphemous. →
    It's blasphemous to say that Judge Gorsuch is overly qualified.

The context:

[h/t Kristi Hein, the Editors' Association of Earth, and the Editors' Political Soapbox]


  1. J. Goard said,

    April 4, 2017 @ 10:23 am

    If you look at local constructions and what they're probably associated with, "not anything but" is rife for misnegation:

    "You're saying I'm not anything?!?"

    "You're saying I'm anything but the best?!?"

    And fuse. Languages are good at fusing.

  2. Guy said,

    April 4, 2017 @ 10:25 am

    She means he's at least one other thing besides being overqualified for the job. For example, he is also an ensouled being created by God, and to deny that is blasphemy.

  3. Faldone said,

    April 4, 2017 @ 10:30 am

    Nicely unpacked and I still don't know what it's supposed to mean.

  4. Isaac D said,

    April 4, 2017 @ 10:31 am

    Definitely misnegation.
    I'm more interested in the use of the word blasphemous here, since I'm pretty sure Mr. Foresman's usage isn't covered in the OED, but more closely resembles its classical Greek meaning.

  5. Gregory Kusnick said,

    April 4, 2017 @ 10:44 am

    Given that this is apparently a Gorsuch supporter talking ("Do not filibuster!"), then yes, it's a misnegation.

    One can imagine a scenario in which Gorsuch supporters start the ball rolling by asserting that he's, if anything, overly qualified. Critics then counter that he's anything but overly qualified. Supporters deny that, i.e. he's not "anything but overly qualified". And then Cantwell weighs in to say that any such denial is blasphemy.

    But apparently that's not what happened here.

  6. Guy said,

    April 4, 2017 @ 10:45 am

    @Isaac D

    The usage of "blasphemous" would not be notable for me in this context were it not being used apparently unironically. Usually when someone describes a statement as "blasphemous" they are expressing a negative opinion toward the attitudes that find it offensive ("for the right, to acknowledge that markets might not always be efficient is blasphemy", "for the left, to suggest that the wage gap might not be the result of sexist discrimination is blasphemy") unless they are simply reporting a historical fact ("she was hanged as a witch in part because she made statements that were considered to be blasphemous").

  7. Ross Presser said,

    April 4, 2017 @ 12:40 pm

    Um. The post has been removed, and it's impossible to tell, from what's posted here so far, whether it was stated by Senator Maria Cantwell (a Democrat who has stated she is opposed to Gorusch) or by someone else writing on her wall. Can you clarify? Was it the "Mr. Foresman" that @Isaac D mentioned?

    [(myl) It was definitely from a Gorsuch supporter, or at least someone strongly supporting his confirmation.]

  8. Don said,

    April 4, 2017 @ 12:57 pm

    At the risk of being blasphemous myself, isn't this a misnegation from Geoff Pullum in his Lingua Franca submission today about Rodney Huddleston?

    Virtually every day we would find over our sandwiches that we had discovered something new about English syntax that no one had never known before.

  9. Kristi Hein said,

    April 4, 2017 @ 1:41 pm

    As best I recall, the commenter was identified only as "a citizen" or "a voter"; I don't know where the name "Mr. Foresman" comes from.

  10. Kristi Hein said,

    April 4, 2017 @ 1:43 pm

    The commenter was objecting to Senator Cantwell's post: "I take very seriously the solemn responsibility of the Senate to provide advice and consent on nominations to our federal courts. If confirmed, Judge Gorsuch will have a lifetime appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, and his impact on the lives of all Americans cannot be overstated. Many difficult issues will come before the court in the months and years ahead. We need a U.S. Supreme Court justice who will stand up for equal justice for all. I still have questions and concerns about Judge Gorsuch. Therefore, I cannot support cloture and will not support the confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court."

  11. David Morris said,

    April 4, 2017 @ 4:46 pm

    Is being 'overly qualified' seen as a good thing or bad thing? In many job applications, being over qualified will see one rejected just as quickly as being underly qualified.

    And how is talking about the qualifications of a prospective Supreme Court judge akin to talking sacrilegiously about God?

  12. Rodger C said,

    April 5, 2017 @ 6:45 am

    Perhaps our society (or that subculture of it) is simply so secularized that the word "blasphemous" has lost its original meaning for many speakers. Also:

    isn't this a misnegation from Geoff Pullum

    Not as far as I can tell.

  13. Rodger C said,

    April 5, 2017 @ 7:46 am

    Oh, I mentally corrected Geoff.

  14. Jerry Friedman said,

    April 7, 2017 @ 2:39 pm

    Isaac D: I just came across this comment about things in Peter Jackson's movies of The Lord of the Rings that were changed from the books:

    "The major differences are his [Gandalf's] reduction in power. The Witch-King defeating Gandalf so easily is blasphemous."

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