Barring no misnegations

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Seung Min Kim, John Wagner, and Josh Dawsey, "Kavanaugh vote: Senate Republican leaders agree to new FBI background investigation of Kavanaugh", WaPo 9/28/2018 [emphasis added]:

President Trump on Friday ordered the FBI to reopen the investigation of Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh’s background, a stunning turnaround in an emotional battle over sexual assault allegations that has shaken the Senate and reverberated across the country.
Late Friday, by voice vote, the Senate took an initial step to move ahead on the nomination. Barring no major revelations from the FBI, the Senate could vote on confirming Kavanaugh next weekend, days after the start of the high court’s session.

It seems to be fairly common for "barring no X" to be used to mean "barring any X" or "unless there is/are X" or "given no X":

[link] The Dr. William S. Kramer Award of Excellence is given to the rising junior dental student who after completion of 2 years of dental education at Rutgers School of Dental Medicine has the highest grade point average (GPA) on file with the Office of the Registrar, barring no evidence of misconduct that would call into question his/her personal or professional integrity.
[link] I will be at next month’s meeting barring no emergencies and I am requesting we table this discussion until then, so I can be a part of and provide what I have as far as financial documentation.
[link] Barring no delay due to the number of non-working holidays, the Department will be able to name the new major player within the timeline set by the President.
[link] Barring no difficulties or hold-ups, plan review should be completed.
[link] Marlon Mack will be taking on the role as the team’s starting running back for Week 1, barring no last-minute tweaks.
[link] Barring no setbacks, it'll likely take about two weeks for Sale to be ready to pitch in games.

Perhaps this has progressed to the point where there should be extra dictionary entries for "barring no X" in the sense of "given no X".

The obligatory screenshot:


  1. Maude said,

    September 29, 2018 @ 11:47 am

    I initallyfound "no" less jarring before a negative noun, such as setback or difficulties, but "barring no miracle" or "barring no bad weather" is utterly confusing.

  2. Dagwood said,

    September 29, 2018 @ 1:13 pm

    If Kavanaugh is the topic, anyone have insights re: the terms he used: boof, skis, devil's triangle, alumnius?

    While he claims "skis" was short for "brewskis," I've heard it argued it might refer to cocaine — supposedly a snow allusion, and because two lines of cocaine might resemble actual skis. Anyway, I'm quite sure "boof" doesn't/didn't refer to flatulence.

  3. Maude said,

    September 29, 2018 @ 2:52 pm

    Is the "i" in alumnius a typo? Others avoided it. Very curious about the other words as well.

  4. J.W. Brewer said,

    September 29, 2018 @ 7:59 pm

    Probably many other things about the situation are more disheartening in the grander scheme of things, but in terms of public knowledge of lexicography and linguistic research, the most disheartening thing may be the alarmingly high percentage of internet opinion-mongers who appear to believe that the simplest way to accurately figure out the meaning of cryptic phrases from a text written by a teenager in 1983 is just to ask urbandictionary in 2018. Because nothing's more lexically stable over 35 years than teenage slang, right?

    I'm not sure what's out there in terms of either good reference sources or good corpora to fish around in for getting at teenage slang of that era, which was my own teenage era, but of course there are lots of geographic and microgeographic variations in teenage slang, including inside jokes that might be specific to a single high school or clique/subculture within that high school. A scholarly post by one of the august LL regulars on how to do (and how not to do) lexicographic inquiry into early '80's teenage slang might be a public service.

    FWIW, for the sort of texts in the google books corpus (probably underweight the sort of teenage slang and inside jokes at issue here), the usual meaning of "devil's triangle" in the relevant era appears to have been as a common synonym for the so-called Bermuda Triangle, which was the sort of thing you would inevitably have known about growing up in that era in the same sort of way you would have known about other pop-paranormal things like biorhythms and pyramid power, all of which may be obscure to younger generations. The range of mildly outre things (relating to sex, to intoxicants, to something else …) that slang-inventing teenage boys of my era might plausibly have thought the Bermuda Triangle was a good and/or funny metaphor for seems extremely wide.

  5. Anna said,

    September 30, 2018 @ 6:38 am

    J.W. Brewer:

    Well, ex-teenagers of the era should know. Reporters have asked several of Kavanaugh’s former classmates what those words and phrases meant. Their explanations don't jibe with his.

  6. Dagwood said,

    September 30, 2018 @ 9:17 am

    J.W. Brewer: Move to strike as nonresponsive, your honor.

    What Anna said.

  7. philip said,

    September 30, 2018 @ 6:32 pm

    Anna: is your 'jibe' a typo for 'jive', or is that the way you say the phrase?

    [(myl) Not just Anna — the OED has jibe, v, "intransitive. To chime in (with); to be in harmony or accord; to agree".]

  8. J.W. Brewer said,

    September 30, 2018 @ 8:35 pm

    Obviously the personal recollections of others who were in the relevant speech community at the relevant time are a lot better that just checking what urbandictionary has to say as of 35+ years later, but it's not as good as contemporaneous evidence. Not only is memory tricky but dating can get elusive (with e.g. a slang term one first actually heard around the time one graduated from college being shifted back into memories of ones high school years or vice versa), unless one has some particularly good way to anchor in time the date when one first came across the word or phrase.

    FWIW "boof" (with alternative spellings "buff" and several others) and various derived terms are covered extensively in the (copyright date 2008) Dictionary of the English/Creole of Trinidad & Tobago, with citations back to 1971. But the Trinidadian sense may not have been current in early '80's Montgomery Co., Md.

  9. 80s Teen said,

    October 1, 2018 @ 12:02 am

    Okay, as an 80s teen, I'll help out:

    Boof–anal sex. Note that current slang is to take drugs anally, so the anal connection remains.

    Devil's triangle – a sexual threesome of 2 men and 1 woman. The devilish part comes from the two men–because nothing is as homophobic as a teenage boy, and that two males should touch is a very evil thing

    as to Renate's Alumnius apparently only Brett Kavanaugh included the extraneous "i", and it (according to his friends) appears to relate to sex with a young lady named Renate Schroeder, now Dolphin. She was one of the 65 women who attested to his sterling character, and is apparently now quite upset.

  10. philip said,

    October 1, 2018 @ 5:37 am

    So, doe anyone else say , 'don't jive with', or is it just me?

  11. Rodger C said,

    October 1, 2018 @ 6:50 am

    Philip, I need a complete sentence before I can answer that question properly–"jive" is a word too, with a different meaning–but I do think a lot of people anymore (ahem) use "jive" for "jibe." And then there's "gibe," which I sometimes write instead of "jibe."

  12. Maude said,

    October 1, 2018 @ 8:47 am

    alumnIus – "i" like "in"…? (Retro) Teenage mind working, nothing to do with linguistics.

  13. speedwell said,

    October 1, 2018 @ 9:09 am

    I am nearly the same age as and was in the same year of school as Kavanaugh, in a New Jersey high school close to his that had a largely upper-middle-class demographic. I was discussing this with some friends recently and remember "boofing" as taking something per rectum as the pharmacist might put it (it was not confined to drugs or alcohol but could have been a reference to a hazing practice on a sports team where the newbie was sexually assaulted with a piece of equipment). The "Devil's Triangle" was definitely a reference to a sexual practice and not a drinking game. "Skis" is "brewskis" for sure.

  14. J.W. Brewer said,

    October 1, 2018 @ 11:23 am

    Speedwell's comment is particularly interesting to me because I am also that age and high-school class and went to a high school located geographically in between the nominee's high school and New Jersey. But with exception of 'skis (which I don't know that I specifically remember hearing c. 1983 as a clipped form of brewskis, but am confident would have been semantically transparent to me if I had heard it in an appropriate context) I don't recall the other two at all, either then or since. I certainly would not have said I was at the time less familiar than the average teenage boy with sexual slang (and indeed I had the sort of wide-ranging lexicographic interests that were putting me on the pathway toward majoring in linguistics …), although I guess I'm glad that I was sheltered enough as to not have any alternative word/phrase I can recall to discuss that particular sort of sports-team-hazing practice speedwell alludes to (i.e. I don't remember talking about it or hearing it talked about, so if there was a lexeme or phrase in use for it in the area I don't know what it was). Don't know what this means other than, again, there was potentially a lot of fine-grained geographical (and social-class and etc.) variability in slang.

    By way of illustrating that variability, I do have a specific recollection from 1982 (I can pinpoint the year because of the specific context) when I was away from where I grew up with a bunch of other kids of similar age (mostly 16 or 17) from all over the U.S. One young lady from southern California used a striking bit of sexual slang on multiple occasions that I really couldn't initially figure out. I knew or could at least intuit one sexual slang sense (I'll call that Sexual Sense A) that just didn't make seem to make sense in the sentences she was uttering, but after I heard her use it three or four times (maybe over a couple days – not all one conversation) I was finally able to figure out from context what she meant (call that Sexual Sense B, which seemed unrelated, or at least did not have a super-obvious metaphorical chain where it could be derived from A or vice versa). I was at the time too shy and untrained at linguistic fieldwork to ask the other young lady from southern California in the group if she was also familiar with Sexual Sense B. I have never since that time heard anyone use Sexual Sense B although I have heard Sexual Sense A from time to time.

    So I decide to investigate what not-always-reliable urbandictionary has to say, and it currently gives three different definitions: Sexual Sense A, Sexual Sense B (which I hadn't otherwise seen in the intervening 36 years), and Completely Non-Sexual Sense C, which I didn't recall but seemed like I might have been able to grok from context if I read it in the right context. And further googling revealed not-implausible (in the same sense of don't specifically recall but could grok from context) Non-Sexual Senses D and E. I also found a (21st century) review of a novel that complained that the author kept using the phrase in what sounded like Non-Sexual Sense C — the point being that the reviewer was only familiar with the phrase in Sexual Sense A (apparently not B) and thus found the usage puzzling and distracting.

    Were all of A through E (or even more) extant in 1983? I don't know. Maybe we need a large and well-balanced searchable corpus of high school yearbooks?

  15. Jerry Friedman said,

    October 1, 2018 @ 12:02 pm

    Maude: I'd guess "alumnius" was an error, maybe young Brett's—he really thought that was how it's spelled, or he was thinking of both "alumni" and "alumnus" at the same time, or something. Or a friend had made that or a similar error and he was teasing the friend about it. Or an error by someone on the yearbook staff. Or something.

  16. philip said,

    October 1, 2018 @ 5:24 pm

    Roger C:

    I will let them say it for me …

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