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NOTWITHSTANDING

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NOTWITHSTANDING

Postby Dr. Goodword » Tue Sep 04, 2012 11:20 pm

• notwithstanding •


Pronunciation: naht-with-stæn-ding • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Preposition, Adverb, Conjunction

Meaning: 1. (Preposition) Despite, in spite of. 2. (Adverb) Nevertheless, all the same. 3. (Conjunction) Although, despite the fact that.

Notes: Today's lexical dynamo is remarkably versatile, functioning equally well as no fewer than three parts of speech (see above). Moreover, in its prepositional function it may stand before (preposition) or after (postposition) the noun phrase it modifies. How is this possible? Read on.

In Play: Let us begin with the preposition-postposition option. Use this word when you wish to emphasize your firmness on a matter: "Notwithstanding your heavy social schedule, you must clean your room before going out." Better yet, put this 'preposition' behind the noun phrase: "Your heavy social schedule notwithstanding, you must clean up your room before going out!" That will garner you the respect you deserve. (Ago is another English postposition, as in 'five years ago' but not 'ago five years'.) We may also use this word as an attention-grabbing adverb: "I dyed my hair every color in the rainbow but Daley Walker notwithstanding never even glanced my way." Finally, our protean friend loves to act like a conjunction replacing although: "Daley Walker paid no attention to me notwithstanding I dyed my hair every color in the rainbow."

Word History: Today's Good Word is a collapsed phrase, not withstanding, that was a loan-translation of Latin non obstante "not obstructing". A 'loan translation' is a word or phrase that is translated part by part from another language. For example, English borrowed the word superman piece by piece from German Übermensch by translating über "over, super" and Mensch "man" independently. Some call such a word a calque.
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Re: NOTWITHSTANDING

Postby Slava » Wed Sep 05, 2012 7:10 am

"Daley Walker paid no attention to me notwithstanding I dyed my hair every color in the rainbow."
I guess this translates as Daley Walker was able to withstand the colorful assault.
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Re: NOTWITHSTANDING

Postby MTC » Wed Sep 05, 2012 12:21 pm

According to Wikipedia, "noughtwithstanding" is an alternative form, though I have never seen it used. See http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/notwithstanding
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Re: NOTWITHSTANDING

Postby Slava » Wed Sep 05, 2012 1:06 pm

That is odd, as it seems to me that not and nought have different meanings.
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Re: NOTWITHSTANDING

Postby MTC » Wed Sep 05, 2012 5:11 pm

In response to Slava's comment, according to the Collins English Dictionary:

not [nɒt]
adv
1.
a. used to negate the sentence, phrase, or word that it modifies I will not stand for it
b. (in combination) they cannot go
not that (conjunction) Also (archaic) not but what which is not to say or suppose that I expect to lose the game — not that I mind
sentence substitute
used to indicate denial, negation, or refusal certainly not
[C14 not, variant of nought nothing, from Old English nāwiht, from nā no + wiht creature, thing. See naught, nought]
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003

So it appears the words do mean the same thing; not is merely a variant of naught.

But notwithstanding itself has never made sense to me. Consider the definitions of the two component parts, not and withstand:

The definition of not is given above.

withstand [wɪðˈstænd]
vb -stands, -standing, -stood
1. (tr) to stand up to forcefully; resist
2. (intr) to remain firm in endurance or opposition
withstander n
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003

So something that does not withstand something else should not resist or oppose it. Given the definitions of not and withstanding that shoud logically be the meaning of notwithstanding, shouldn't it?

Let's test that meaning in a sentence: "Notwithstanding the force of the wind, the house remained undamaged." But if we substitute "not resisting or opposing" for notwithstanding, the sentence is illogical: " Not resisting the force of the wind, the house remained undamaged."

Something is wrong. I think the answer may be notwithstanding was not assembled or combined from not and withstand, but came to English as a loan translation from Latin, and something got lost in the translation.
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Re: NOTWITHSTANDING

Postby Slava » Wed Sep 05, 2012 6:14 pm

MTC wrote:So something that does not withstand something else should not resist or oppose it. Given the definitions of not and withstanding that shoud logically be the meaning of notwithstanding, shouldn't it?

Let's test that meaning in a sentence: "Notwithstanding the force of the wind, the house remained undamaged." But if we substitute "not resisting or opposing" for notwithstanding, the sentence is illogical: " Not resisting the force of the wind, the house remained undamaged."

Something is wrong. I think the answer may be notwithstanding was not assembled or combined from not and withstand, but came to English as a loan translation from Latin, and something got lost in the translation.
MTC, I do believe one problem you are facing is that you seem to be trying to understand this as a verb.

The meaning of your sample sentence, "Notwithstanding the force of the wind, the house remained undamaged," is quite clear to me. An awkward, but hopefully helpful translation might be, "The house's ability to remain undamaged was not obstructed by the force of the wind."

Another way of looking at the etymology of withstand is to see it as "standing against." So again, we have the force of the wind not standing against the house, so it remained unscathed.
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Re: NOTWITHSTANDING

Postby Perry Lassiter » Wed Sep 05, 2012 9:12 pm

The Collins definition of "not" left me dizzy. Like. Huh? What did he say?

I have in the back of my head some Cockney "nowt." i wonder if one of the Britishers on this forum would comment?
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Re: NOTWITHSTANDING

Postby Audiendus » Wed Sep 05, 2012 11:01 pm

Perry Lassiter wrote:I have in the back of my head some Cockney "nowt." i wonder if one of the Britishers on this forum would comment?

"Nowt" is not Cockney but northern English dialect (e.g. Yorkshire and Lancashire). The opposite is "owt" (anything). You may be interested in this list of Yorkshire words:

http://silsden.net/yorkshiredialect/dictionary.htm
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Re: NOTWITHSTANDING

Postby Philip Hudson » Thu Sep 06, 2012 12:29 am

Indeed, Yorkshire is a section of England with some strong accents and dialects. Some of my Yorkshire friends say they speak "broad" Yorkshire. I love all of Yorkshire, but then I love all of England. None of my Britsh ancestors came from Yorkshire. They came to America from Herefordshire, East Anglia and London. Irish ancestors were really English who escaped to Ireland for religious freedom. Catholics were nicer to Qukers than Anglicans were in those days.
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Re: NOTWITHSTANDING

Postby MTC » Thu Sep 06, 2012 6:39 am

In reply to Slava's comment, notwithstanding derives from a verb. "Notwithstanding: it derives from Old English notwiþstondynge from the late 14th century. It is the combination of not with the present progressive form of the Old English verb wiþstondyn."
http://www.enotes.com/linguistics/discu ... ies-116622

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Re: NOTWITHSTANDING

Postby Perry Lassiter » Thu Sep 06, 2012 11:16 am

Many of the words in the Yorkshire list above would be easily understandable to Americans, although we might consider them slang. "Belt" and "bob" immediately popped out along with some others.
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Re: NOTWITHSTANDING

Postby MTC » Thu Sep 06, 2012 12:31 pm

Scanning the list of Yorkshire expressions I was immediately struck (if not blown away) by the definition of "blowed" as "amazed." The definition shed light on the Bertie Wooster-like expression, "Well, I'll be blowed!"

According to the editor of WorldWideWords,

" The most common form that I’m familiar with is either well, I’m blowed! or well, I’ll be blowed!, both gentle expressions of mild astonishment or perplexity."

http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-blo6.htm
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Re: NOTWITHSTANDING

Postby Slava » Fri Sep 07, 2012 10:51 pm

MTC wrote:In reply to Slava's comment, notwithstanding derives from a verb. "Notwithstanding: it derives from Old English notwiþstondynge from the late 14th century. It is the combination of not with the present progressive form of the Old English verb wiþstondyn."
http://www.enotes.com/linguistics/discu ... ies-116622

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It may derive from a verb, but that does not mean it is a verb in its current usage.
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Re: NOTWITHSTANDING

Postby MTC » Sat Sep 08, 2012 7:55 am

That's the point. Notwithstanding is a word formed from not and the verb, withstanding. Why should the combined form, nothwithstanding, mean something different than its original component parts? Why should the word morph from a verb meaning one thing to a preposition despite, meaning the opposite? The words have undergone "a sea change into something rich and strange," to quote Shakespeare. If anything, the original meaning of the words makes more sense than the arbitrary and counterintuitive meaning developed through usage.
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Re: NOTWITHSTANDING

Postby Perry Lassiter » Sat Sep 08, 2012 1:22 pm

Ah, but an old friend with PhD in hand liked to say, "Words do not have meaning, they have usages." An experiment: in a group of people, tell them you are about to say a common word, and when you do, they should take a mental snapshot of what they picture. Then say "cat." When you ask them to report, some will have seen a gray cat, others black or orange. Sometimes they see a lion or tiger. If such a simple word evokes so many different meanings, why do we think we communicate with abstract or emotionally freighted words? Try "government" or "father." i believe words do have various levels of meanings that enables communication. But people also have a wide variety of experiences that can result in miscommunication. Ask any marriage counselor who has found couples totally misunderstanding each other.
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