Even again

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Today's Girls with Slingshots opens with this exchange between Clarice and Tucker:

Clarice's contribution is a nice example of the new (?) negative-polarity emphatic even (discussed in "What does 'even' even mean?", 2/8/2011). Danielle Corsetto, the strip's author, puts this instance of emphatic even in caps to indicate prosodic focus, which emphatic even doesn't always have — perhaps some aspiring even-ologist can figure out why it sometimes does and sometimes doesn't.

The whole current GWS strip, for context:

Actually, as often in comics and in life, you need a little more context to understand what's going on.  Skipping some background, this all starts with Tucker hitting on Clarice in the library where she works: 11811182, 11921193.

He tries to blackmail her into going out with him (1212), by threatening to reveal the fact that she supported herself as a dominatrix while getting a degree in library science (as I said, there's some background I skipped). That thread continues through 1213 and the intervening numbers to 1220 and 1221, where Clarice persuades Tucker that he'd do better to leave her alone; but nevertheless she decides to teach him how to interact with women.

Clarice picks up that quixotic enterprise in the most recent series, in which she advises conversation as a way to establish an initial connection. This, of course, brings up the difficult issue of what people mean by what they say and how they look, in romantic comedies and in life: 125212531254125512561257.


  1. Acilius said,

    October 19, 2011 @ 7:28 am

    I used to read Girls with Slingshots all the time, got out of the habit a couple of years ago. Thanks for reminding me of the strip! And also for the point you were actually making, of course.

  2. Alex said,

    October 19, 2011 @ 8:05 am

    Corsetto has used the "even" before, a few comics earlier: http://www.girlswithslingshots.com/comic/gws-1203/ (McPedro, 1st panel)

  3. Rube said,

    October 19, 2011 @ 8:24 am

    The "EVEN" in the strip reads oddly to me. It seems to break up the flow of the condescension, which to my ear would flow better as:

    "I can't BELIEVE you watch ROMANTIC COMEDIES."

    Does anyone else feel the same way?

  4. Rod Johnson said,

    October 19, 2011 @ 8:28 am

    I can date when I heard my first emphatic even to September 1972 (I even remember who said it, it was so startling). It seemed even at the time quite different from the unstressed version, which seems to me to have scalar implications ("he's not even 18 yet"). When my high-school classmate said "I ain't EVEN doing that!" I remember thinking this was something new–of course, within weeks I was saying it and so was everyone else in my lower-middle class suburban high school.

    The stressed and unstressed variants still seem quite distinct to me. "He's not even 18" means "not yet," whereas "He's not EVEN 18" means "I can't believe you would suggest that." It's actually kind of similar to "He's not EITHER 18," which I've heard but isn't in my dialect, and I wonder if that's where it came from.

  5. Tim Martin said,

    October 19, 2011 @ 9:17 am

    I was going to ask about "either," which Rod Johnson just mentioned. As in, "No you didn't EITHER." Others are familiar with this too, I hope. It seems to play a similar role to EVEN. Does any analysis already exist on the "either" issue? Is there a name for it?

  6. Joe said,

    October 19, 2011 @ 10:52 am

    I haven't had a chance to do a search yet, but it feels slightly odd to me to use "don't" instead of "can't" in this context.

  7. Philip said,

    October 19, 2011 @ 11:33 am

    What Rube said, but I think the stress is wrong:

    *I don't EVEN believe . . .

    I don't even beLIEVE . . .

    In my dialect, the "even" is emphatic. "I don't beLIEVE" is a strong expression of disbelief, and "I don't even beLIEVE" is even STRONGer.

  8. Nathan said,

    October 19, 2011 @ 1:41 pm

    I competed in speech and debate in high school. A judge once marked me down for using what she somehow misinterpreted as an ("inappropriately colloquial") emphatic even. That would have been circa 1991.

  9. Jim said,

    October 19, 2011 @ 3:37 pm

    "Clarice's contribution is a nice example of the new (?) negative-polarity emphatic even .."

    I first heard this in 1977 from African-Ameicans who all happened to come from Southrn states. I didn't get the sense there was anything new or slangy about the usage and even though it was brand new to me Iit made perfect sense. It seems a lot more common now, but that is only very recently. Maybe it really was an AAVE usage originally.

    [(myl) You might be right about this. Or it might be a more general Southern States thing — I can recall hearing what I think was emphatic even from a white drill sergeant in 1969, in phrases like "Not EVEN" meaning "Absolutely not". But my unquantified impression is that I've been hearing emphatic even increasingly often, and from an increasingly broad range of people, over the past few decades.]

  10. Rubrick said,

    October 19, 2011 @ 4:43 pm

    Negative-polarity "even"… that seems odd.

  11. Jim said,

    October 19, 2011 @ 5:29 pm

    "[(myl) You might be right about this. Or it might be a more general Southern States thing — I can recall hearing what I think was emphatic even from a white drill sergeant in 1969."

    Maybe that is who I am hearing it from these days. Maybe I am around more southern whites, and they have been using it all along.

  12. Rod Johnson said,

    October 19, 2011 @ 6:07 pm

    Where I come from, outside Detroit, had a heavy influx of southern/Ohio valley whites in the thirties and forties, so it makes sense to me that this might have come north with them.

    @Philip: I'm not surprised that not everyone has this, but in my dialect, both forms are correct (but mean different things).

  13. Chandra said,

    October 19, 2011 @ 7:32 pm

    Interestingly, when I read the earlier post ("What does "even" even mean?") I commented to the effect that all the examples seemed potentially scalar to me. I couldn't think of what a purely emphatic "even" might sound like. But reading this comic strip, and Rod Johnson's comment, has suddenly transported me back to the five years I spent as an adolescent in Arizona (the only years I've spent outside of Canada), and I now absolutely know what you're talking about.

  14. richard said,

    October 20, 2011 @ 5:21 pm

    As I kid I would have used "not neither," I think, to render the sense of stressed "even" seen here. But then, I was a weird kid by all accounts….

  15. Weird Linguistics: Negative Polarity Items « J.S. Bangs said,

    March 20, 2012 @ 10:27 pm

    […] conscious thought on downward entailment and veridicality. (Lucky for you.) You can even invent new negative polarity items on occasion. But next time it comes up that a non-native speaker uses an NPI incorrectly, do be […]

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