Positive “anymore”

I recently heard from an old friend who had stumbled upon my website. He said he was shocked when he read this line from my bio:

My family says that anymore at the end of the last sentence sounds wrong, but it’s all good.

This line piqued his interest because he also puts anymore at the ends of sentences, but his wife doesn’t – even though she grew up somewhat close to where he did. And she has commented about how his family does it as well. My website made him think that maybe this wasn’t something that only his family said. And indeed he’s right! It’s called “positive anymore” and there are millions of English speakers that say this. But there are also many millions more who do not, so they may notice it when they hear someone say it.

There’s a Wikipedia page on the topic – which doesn’t do a great job explaining things, so let’s try to do better.

The word anymore is usually used in negative sentences – something like “Comic books aren’t cheap anymore.” That sentence has a negative marker n’t in it and it uses anymore to indicate that the opposite used to be true (that comic books used to be cheap). No English speaker would have a problem with that sentence. But some people (like yours truly) use anymore in sentences that do not have a negative marker. The Wikipedia page lists the sentence “I eat meat anymore” to show that people use anymore in this way to mean “I didn’t eat meat before, but I do now.” But that’s not the best example.

Check out these examples below. Do these sentences sound grammatical to you?

  • What if you were looking at the price of a new car and someone said, “Boy, cars are sure expensive anymore!”?
  • What if someone said, “Itʼs real hard to find a good job anymore”?
  • What if someone said, “I used to watch football, but anymore I watch baseball”?

These sentences sound more natural to me and they are more similar to the way I use anymore. The reason that me and my old-friend-who-stumbled-across-my-website use anymore like this is because of where we grew up. We’re from the north-western most point of the area in the United States where people use positive anymore. That means that people from Delaware probably say this, people from south Jersey might say this, but those from central and north Jersey most likely do not say it. Here’s a map for you.

Partial map of the use of “positive anymore” taken from The Atlas of North American English (2005: 294) by Labov, Ash & Boberg. “Positive anymore” is more likely to occur in the speech of those inside the red line. The questions above are also from this research.

My friend mentioned that his wife is from New Jersey, so in my reply I guessed that my friend’s wife is from outside the red line that slightly cuts through New Jersey. And sure enough, she is.

Here’s another thing though – people aren’t so good at recognizing whether they use positive anymore. It’s not really something that is stigmatized in the way that multiple negation is (“I ain’t said no bad thing to nobody” or “He don’t know nothing”). It’s not in the public consciousness the way that other parts of language are (like the sound differences between dialects or varieties). So speakers aren’t as aware of it as they are of some other things in language. It’s actually impressive that my friend’s wife noticed it. Him and his family must use it enough for her to recognize that it wasn’t just a once off.

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