Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Positive anymore

Slate recently reported on the Yale Grammatical Diversity Project. Looking at Yale’s map of American language use, I got excited about positive anymore, which is very much a part of east-central Illinois language use (and something I’ve been planning to post about for several weeks). I don’t use positive anymore, but I like hearing it, because it requires me to translate, ever so slightly, what’s being said into familiar terms:

Anymore I do my own oil changes = Now I do my own oil changes.

The kids are a priority anymore = The kids are a priority now.
I’m still a stranger in a strange land, amid the alien corn.

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage (1989) has a good commentary on positive anymore:
This usage is dialectal. It has been discovered anew almost every year since 1931 and has been abundantly documented. The Dictionary of American Regional English reports it to be widespread in all dialect areas of the U.S. except New England. It appears to have been of Midland origin — the states where it is most common appear to be Kentucky, West Virginia, Indiana, and Oklahoma — and has spread considerably to such other states as New York, New Jersey, Iowa, Minnesota, California, and Oregon. It is still predominantly a spoken feature, although [ . . . ] it does appear in fiction and occasionally in journalistic sources. Both the older American Dialect Dictionary and the new DARE note that it is used by persons of all educational levels; it is not substandard, and it is not a feature of speech that is considered indicative of social standing.

Bryant 1962 conjectures that the positive anymore may have come to the U.S. with Scotch-Irish immigrants in the 18th century. There is an any more listed in the English Dialect Dictionary that occurs in both positive and negative contexts, but its meaning is different from that of the American usage. D. H. Lawrence, however, did put it into the mouth of the character named Rupert Birkin in his novel Women in Love, published in 1920:
“Quite absurd,” he said. “Suffering bores me, any more.”
And P. W. Joyce, in English As We Speak It in Ireland (1910), notes the existence of a positive use of any more in the West and Northwest of Ireland. It is also used in Canada. Modern Canadian English Usage (1974) reports 8 or 9 percent of its respondents using the positive anymore with the highest incidences found in Ontario and Newfoundland.

Although many who encounter the usage for the first time think it is new, it is not: the earliest attestation cited in the DARE is dated 1859.
Anymore I don’t need to think about anymore — just listen for it.

Reader, do you say or hear positive anymore?

comments: 1

Daughter Number Three said...

I think I do, or at least it sounds familiar ... but I wouldn't use it at the beginning of a sentence myself. It sounds odd there. Not sure if I've acquired the familiarity in my 29 years in Minnesota or if it dates to my central New York days. It almost feels like my dad's mother used to say it, and she never lived anywhere but central New York.