“I’ve not” and “I’ll not” ~vs~ “I haven’t” and “I won’t” -- Why?
March 8, 2014 10:09 AM   Subscribe

I’ve noticed that I’m increasingly reading “I’ve not” in place of “I haven’t” and “I’ll not” in place of “I won’t.” When I was growing up (the 70s), these expressions were exceedingly rare. I knew they existed, of course, but to me they seemed redolent of century-old books: “I’ll not brook such behavior in my classroom, Tom Sawyer!” “Fezziwig! I’ve not heard his voice since my youth.” But in the last 15 years or so, I've been seeing these phrasings more and more often in colloquial writing — other blogs, Amazon reviews, internet discussions, MeFi etc. I don’t seem to hear these forms spoken, which adds to their air of formality.

My question: Where did this revival come from? Was it a Britishism that drifted across the pond? Was it a US regionalism that spread? Was there a particular influential writer that started the resurgence? If you use these forms, did you grow up using them or did you adopt them recently? Extra credit: Why don’t I ever see forms like “she’s not” (for “she has not”) and “they’ll not”?
posted by ROTFL to Writing & Language (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Is it not possible that the writers you are reading are, in fact, British?
posted by ssg at 10:17 AM on March 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Like other things vaguely British and old-fashioned, I hear these as a sort of hipster affectation.

"She's not" could be too easily confused with 'she is not.'
posted by jon1270 at 10:21 AM on March 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

I do this in writing and in speech deliberately, as an affectation. I don't know exactly how or when I started doing so.
posted by General Tonic at 10:27 AM on March 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Saying "I've not" in place of "I haven't" is a standard regional expression in Britain (but it's so long since I left that I've forgotten which regions).
posted by anadem at 10:27 AM on March 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's a Britishism which is currently hip in the USA, like saying "crap" instead of "crappy."
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 10:28 AM on March 8, 2014

And in parts of Canada, too. Maybe you are just interacting with more British and Canadian people.
posted by cairdeas at 10:28 AM on March 8, 2014

I noticed it too. See also "gingers", "Cheers!" instead of "Thanks" and "No worries." (those two especially annoy me. I wasn't worried, and don't tell me what to do.) I think it's just a consequence of the Internet and more British media being available and popular. More people get exposed to novel ways to phrase things and they think it makes them sound worldly and cultured to say things differently than other people around them.
posted by bleep at 10:48 AM on March 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

To answer the questions above: Some of the writers may be British, but most I know to be American. What's odd is that I read all kinds of British media online, from the lowest-brow to the highest-brow, and these expressions seem uncommon in published British writing. They're much more common in very colloquial contexts. (I wonder if that's because, in published writing, a copyeditor would flag them?)

I also forgot to mention where I grew up: Manhattan, NY, for what it's worth. Bleep, it's funny you mentioned "gingers," because I'd noticed that too. I think South Park was the spark for that one.
posted by ROTFL at 10:54 AM on March 8, 2014

I'd always put it down to Harry Potter, Dr. Who and BBC Sherlock - I've noticed this same uptick in semi-Britishisms myself. My theory has been that US fandom started using them fairly heavily and it spread from there.
posted by Frowner at 11:00 AM on March 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

"No worries" is Australian. Don't blame us for that one.
posted by tinkletown at 11:00 AM on March 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

About everyone bringing up "gingers", don't forget Prince Harry, who is currently touted by many people in the media as the most eligible bachelor in the English-speaking world.
posted by cairdeas at 11:02 AM on March 8, 2014

Fits in a tweet or text better?
posted by Jacqueline at 11:11 AM on March 8, 2014

It's a Britishism? I picked up "I've not" and "I'll not" from my father, who was born on a kitchen table in West Texas. It's possible that he picked them up somewhere along the way but they're a lifelong habit with me (I'm 42.)
posted by workerant at 11:15 AM on March 8, 2014

I've never found 'I've not' to seem even a little unusual, but I grew up in the Maritime provinces of Canada, so it might be a holdover Britishism, which we have a lot of.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:26 AM on March 8, 2014

What's going on in one of the cases is that the verb 'have' comes in two varieties: the type used to indicate tense (auxiliary have), and the type that indicates actual having (what we linguists call "lexical have"). In American dialects of English, you can only invert and contract with auxiliaries. So I can say "I've seen that film already" but you can't say "I've a film to see tonight". Similarly you can't invert to make a question with lexical have. So "Have you eaten?" is fine, while "Have you anything to eat?" doesn't work in American dialects, except in borrowing (♫ have you any wool ♫ ).
posted by tractorfeed at 2:51 PM on March 8, 2014 [7 favorites]

To expand a bit, this is a holdover from earlier forms of English which did allow manipulations of lexical verbs. You see this a lot in Shakespeare, for example: "Knowest thou the youth that spoke to me erewhile?" I do not work in historical linguistics but I believe that there are some fossilized features of older forms of English that can be found in more rural regions of the US, so it wouldn't surprise me to find lexical contraction in West Texas.
posted by tractorfeed at 2:59 PM on March 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

The only person I know who does this is from Oklahoma. Which might be near West Texas. or not.
posted by DMelanogaster at 3:11 PM on March 8, 2014

As a point of data, "I've not" is quite common here in the north of Ireland (as in, "I've not seen him today", for example).
posted by meronym at 3:34 PM on March 8, 2014

Seconding Harry Potter and the rise of pop culture fantasy. Britishisms have made their way into colloquial American English over the last half century via two routes: James Bond and Harry Potter.
posted by deathpanels at 6:09 PM on March 8, 2014

"No worries" is Australian. Don't blame us for that one.
posted by tinkletown at 11:00 AM on March 8 [2 favorites +] [!]

Yep, it is. But (tangentially), it's not telling you not to worry, in any more than 'no problem' is telling you not to have a problem. 'No worries' means 'It wasn't a worry (i.e. a bother) for me to do that for you'. :)

The other examples in the OP are firmly British. Haven't seen them creeping in in Australia, for what it's worth.
posted by Salamander at 8:31 PM on March 8, 2014

but it's so long since I left that I've forgotten which regions

When I was in England, I thought it was (or "were") in abundant evidence in the north; I also heard Irish and Scottish people use it. I think I recall hearing "she's not" in the mix.

Agree there's been a more recent upswing in North American anglophilia on all fronts, kind of dovetailing together, since maybe Arctic Monkeys / Winehouse era in music, and possibly Ricky Gervais, Russell Brand and Steeve Coogan in comedy? But, I'm going to arbitrarily assign a good chunk of the blame just to Russell Brand.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:48 PM on March 8, 2014

Yeah, it's a slight hipster affectation, and something I see typed out online more than I actually hear it used in conversation.

Conversely, both in writing from the mid 20th century and the speech of older people (specifically in American English), I often hear "Have you a pencil?" and "I haven't" rather than the more common nowadays "Do you have a pencil?" and "I don't". So my guess is that this sort of thing just tends to shift around within English, over time, for no really specific reason.
posted by Sara C. at 1:44 PM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

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