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In a recent email I received was this line: "Be under no illusion that 2011 is Our Year."

From what I understand "Be under no illusion" means the same as "Don't be fooled". So I would expect that it would be followed by comments such as "It's going to be tough, but we can do it together" or some similar sentiment. However, this statement is then followed by a positive statement.

To me this contradicts the use of "Be under no illusion". Do I have the meaning wrong or is this one of those crazy phrases that can be used both as a negative and as a positive?

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3 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I agree with you that this, at best, is an unusual use of the phrase "be under no illusion", while not saying that it's necessarily wrong.

The phrase implies that someone might develop, or has already developed, an illusion (a distorted view) of something. So perhaps if the conventional wisdom was "2011 is not going to be our year", the phrase "Be under no illusion, 2011 is our year" might make more sense?

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+1: agreed, except that for my part I would argue that it’s wrong. It’s a small error which most readers will probably unconsciously correct in their reading (since context strongly sets up the intended expectation), but it is something of an error nonetheless. It seems similar to the ‘overnegation’ so beloved of Language Log –  PLL Feb 14 '11 at 20:50
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As a native (US) speaker, I find the phrase odd-sounding. I don't believe I've ever encountered it. Despite that, I wouldn't interpret that phrase as inherently positive or negative; the clause that follows would determine that. However, I would interpret 'don't be fooled' the same way. In each case, the speaker is trying to disabuse someone of a concept that the speaker finds incorrect in and of itself, whether or not that incorrectness is positive or negative.

Edit:

I encountered a billboard the evening after I posted this answer, with the more common phrase which I could not remember at the time: "Make no mistake". Applied to the original statement, it would be "Make no mistake - 2011 is Our Year."

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Interesting question, xiao: running over the possible implications of the phrase, I think it contains both positive and negative allusions.

Thus, "don't be fooled ...it's going to be tough" is a legitimate reading, and the one that I'd have arrived at first.

Equally, it can be seen as "don't be fooled [by the naysayers] ...we'll perform superbly."

Personally, I sense a subtle threat in the phrase no matter how it's read: the subtext says "don't be an idiot; believe what we're about to tell you, or else ...".

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Maybe it is more like this: "Be under no illusion... 2011 is Our Year". I can see that now. –  xiaohouzi79 Feb 10 '11 at 21:51
    
I'm not sure I follow you, xiao: I put the ellipses in my response just to glide over the center of the phrase, not to correct the original punctuation. –  fortunate1 Feb 10 '11 at 21:58
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