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“So Don’t I,” A New England Dialect Feature Meaning “So Do I”

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Jeremy calls from Charleston, South Carolina, to say that when he lived in southeast New Hampshire, he was puzzled by the use of a seemingly negative response to indicate something positive. For example, if he said I drive a red car and his listener also drove a red car, the listener would respond affirmatively with the phrase So don’t I meaning “I drive a red car, too.” This construction is primarily heard in New England. Linguist Jim Wood of Yale University has studied it extensively, and points out such constructions aren’t limited to the verbs do and don’t.For example, in New England, you might also hear statements such as Sure, it’s trendy but so aren’t most nightclubs, or Yes, the clerks should be treated with respect but so shouldn’t the customers. Many other phrases used more widely may at first sound negative but actually communicate something positive, such as Don’t you look pretty! or Wouldn’t you like to know! Want to know more? For more of Wood’s work on the topic, search online for the phrase affirmative semantics with negative morphosyntax. This is part of a complete episode.

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