Today’s post is a spontaneous outburst, unlike most of my painfully extracted posts.
Fodor’s Japan (2012) states that “Karaoke is a Japanese institution whose rabid popularity cannot be understated.”
What does that MEAN? That we can’t go low enough in our statement because the popularity is so infinitely low? I don’t think so! It was intended to mean the opposite: that any estimate of its popularity will still be too low, since it is SOO popular. In other words IT CANNOT BE OVERSTATED!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Forgive me for my extravagant reaction.
I have come to tolerate “I could care less” as an idiomatic variation. So, I will learn to accept this violation of logic. I will give the user the benefit of the doubt by assuming that he/she/it meant “It must not be understated” as in “It should not be understated.”
I couldn’t find a good photo to illustrate this rant. Therefore I offer a view of some understated hotels on the Gold Coast, Australia. They are understated only because the magnificence of the beach cannot be overstated.
3 thoughts on “Pet language peeve: “It cannot be understated””
This is an extension of the double negative problem. Most people do not perform the required boolean algebra in real time (or predicate calculus, if you are a philosopher) to extract meaning, instead simply attributing meaning on the basis of context plus the most important word they(s) hear in the phrase. Some languages (such as Spanish ) don’t even require the boolean algebra, having given it up a long time ago as potentiating miscommunication. I too had problems with “I could care less?”, but reconciled on the basis that it is meaningful as a sardonic question with an implied principal clause “Do you think that…” (so the question mark is essential!).
Thank you, Dr. B I guess I should have consulted with you in the first place. I think you are right, that this is a sort of double-negative-problem, although I’ll have to
thinksleep a little more on that, especially the reference to Spanish.
Not an unreasonable mis-statement of an untruth.
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