What is the origin and an interpretation of the expression can girlfriend not? To my ear, it has actually an antiquated tone, however searches yield entries in the metropolitan dictionary, in addition to one quote from Sense and also Sensibility. Its twisted syntax, potential ambiguity, and indirectness intrigue me. Part of mine language heritage is from irish American, for this reason I also wonder if this clues at that is source.


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I don"t see why OP need to think we require to find an "origin" because that such a standard construction.

You are watching: Can you not?

Increasingly, world avoid utilizing a negating not in ~ the finish of a sentence, as presented by this NGram, however I wouldn"t walk so far regarding call the consumption "archaic". A tiny "dated", or "formal", perhaps, due to the fact that the modern style is generally much more informal. Civilization are an ext likely come say/write "Can"t you" today, however it yes, really is just a matter of style.

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In addition to FumbleFingers" answer, there"s the much more sarcastic an interpretation of "can you not": that is, "please don"t", together in, "Can you no play the piano so according to in the middle of the night?". In fact, this is exactly how I parsed your question until I check out the other answer (needless come say, i was surprised to apparently find out that Sense and Sensibility had actually such a hip style). Ns don"t know just how this version concerned be, other than through the usual technique of sarcastically twisting a very weak statement, literally definition "Do friend potentially have the ability not to...", right into a strong one.


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In the documentary Terms and also Conditions may Apply, mark Zuckerberg asks the documenters if they room recording him, they speak yes, and also mark replies v "Could friend not?". I believe the usage of this word is ironically a subtle protest against an individual information being provided to big-brother and also sold come marketers by internet bohemeths such as Facebook.


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