"such not a quitter"

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Senior Member
English - USA
"You do have a dilemma because you don’t want your son to be a quitter. But it sounds as if he’s such not a quitter about this that he doesn’t want to speak up about getting smacked in the head. If you and/or your spouse can attend practice to eyeball this for yourself, maybe you will feel more reassured." From a recent Dear Prudence column on Slate (slate.com).

I saw this sentence (in red above) and was perplexed. Has anyone else seen this construction with "such" and a negation? Does it sound right or wrong to you? What do you think it means?
  • panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    This is an unusual construction.
    Can you think of a noun for someone who is committed and persistent and does not give up even under the most difficult circumstances?
    Let's suppose that the noun is "psaphagoo".
    You might say of that person that he is "not a quitter". A psaphagoo is not a quitter.
    Now, transpose that into the brown sentence:
    But it sounds as if he is such psaphagoo about this ....

    Now does it make sense?
    Probably not.

    Another try:
    But it sounds as if he is so much the opposite of a quitter about this ...


    Senior Member
    I've seen so used in constructions like this. (And by the way I read this same column this morning and didn't even notice this weirdness.) I wonder if her use of such here is just a simple error - that she meant to write "so not a quitter" or "such a non-quitter" but through a slip of the keyboard ended up with "such a not quitter"? It sure sounds wrong.


    English USA
    To my respected friends of language, Panjandrum and JustKate:

    Thank you for replying to posts on this site. You are a wealth and treasure, and I, only a passerby.

    I must quote Gilbert Highet.
    “Language is a living thing. We can feel it changing. Parts of it become old: they drop off and are forgotten. New pieces bud out, spread into leaves, and become big branches, proliferating.”

    Language evolves with the minds of the people and in the minds of people!
    In this thread "... it sounds as if he's such not a quitter about this" made perfect sense to me.
    If you are a writer, you need words. Sometimes however words fail. So you create in language a sense of mind. You ask others who read your words to contemplate them. This time "such not a quitter" should have by itself an exclamation point if ever there were one.

    Do not always try to mold a language into structure and syntax so steadfastly that it cannot breath.

    Twenty years ago you would have never dared to say '... so not a quitter' and today you say that it "would have been so much better."


    PS. panjandrum I am sending you a new photo in a private message.


    Senior Member
    English - USA
    That is interesting, snoopBob, but I am confused by your reply to some extent. Have you ever seen a similar construction before? Or do you think the writer of the passage I quoted has created a new type of usage that may catch on?
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