Q: I was surprised to encounter the positive use of “anymore,” as in this sentence: “They’ve started talking funny anymore.” I was further surprised to learn that it’s a known usage with a history.
A: In its primary sense, “anymore” is an adverb used in a negative statement to mean any longer or from now on.
Take these two sentences: (1) “I don’t drive.” (2) “I don’t drive anymore.” The first implies that the speaker has never been a driver. The second implies that he once was a driver but is no longer. So in that case “anymore” has provided additional information.
There’s a secondary sense of “anymore” that used to be considered dialect (that is, not standard English). In this sense, it means “nowadays” or “these days” in a positive statement. Here are a couple of examples: “I take the bus anymore”; “She wears black anymore.”
This second usage is no longer termed dialect in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.) and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.). Both say it’s widely used in many regions of the US.
The two definitions are listed in American Heritage as No. 1 and No. 2 respectively. Ditto in Merriam-Webster’s. M-W notes that while the second meaning originated in the Midwest, it’s now widespread across the U.S., with the exception of New England.
For example, it’s common in the Midwest, according to American Heritage. This makes sense, since I grew up in Iowa and heard it routinely: “I get headaches anymore”; “We hay that field anymore”; “The days are getting shorter anymore.”
Old dictionaries list it as dialect in positive constructions. Not so in new dictionaries. Thus does language change.
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