Pet language peeve: “It cannot be understated”

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”

  1. 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 think sleep a little more on that, especially the reference to Spanish.

Comments are closed.