Not! is a grammatical construction in the English language that became a sarcastic catchphrase in North America in the 1990s. A declarative statement is made, followed by a pause and then an emphatic "not!" is postfixed. The result is a negation of the original declarative statement.
According to the above, the phrase "He is a nice guy... not!" is synonymous to "He is not a nice guy". Whereas the latter structure is a neutral observation, the former expresses rather an annoyance, and is most often used jocularly.
Popularized in North America in the 1990s by a Saturday Night Live skit and subsequent movie Wayne's World, it can be found earliest in print in an 1893 Princeton Tiger (March 30) 103: "An Historical Parallel-- Not." It was such a popular catch phrase that it was selected as the 1992 Word of the Year by the American Dialect Society.
The "Not!" catchphrase was the basis of a scene in the 2006 movie Borat where a lecturer in humour attempted to explain the grammatical construction to Borat with limited success.
Similar forms of postfix negation are found in other comedic contexts without using the word "Not". Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog invokes the phrase "... for me to poop on!" to negate a compliment that precedes it. (An example would be, "But seriously, you've been a great audience ... for me to poop on!")
The comedic utility of the word became apparent, again, in February 2011 in Canada, when a minister of the Crown, Bev Oda, was implicated in a scandal that saw her deny knowledge of the insertion of the word "not" on a legal document denying funding to a respected non-profit organization and offer no explanation as to how her signature appeared on the document. Normal procedure would, of course, have been not to sign the approval document. She later told a Committee of Canada's House of Commons (parliament) that she had no idea where the insertion of the word "not" came from. Weeks later, she claimed that she ordered its insertion. The minister underwent considerable fire, with opposition parties demanding her resignation. She resigned on July 3, 2012.
- Postfix Not! in English
- American Dialect Society 1992 Words of the Year
- Princeton Tiger reference to 1893 issue containing earliest print appearance of the delayed postfix "not"
- A Recent Coinage (Not!), Jesse T Sheidlower, Jonathan E. Lighter, American Speech, Vol. 68, No. 2 (Summer, 1993), pp. 213-218, doi:10.2307/455678
- "ON LANGUAGE; Not!" March 8, 1992, Sunday, by William Safire (New York Times); Magazine Desk Late Edition - Final, Section 6, page 20, Column 1, 1163 words
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