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“All but” idiom has two meanings?

It seems kind of counterintuitive, but saying that:

I'm all but convinced that ponies eat leprechauns.

means

I'm absolutely convinced that ponies eat leprechauns.

It seems that this is backwards; it would seem to mean "I'm everything except convinced that ponies eat leprechauns," meaning that I'm not convinced, but open to the possibility.

What does this "all but (adjective)" conjunction mean?

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Why do you think "all but convinced" means the same as "absolutely convinced"? –  FumbleFingers Dec 13 '11 at 21:41
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marked as duplicate by RegDwigнt Dec 14 '11 at 13:54

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2 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

All but convinced means you are on the verge of being convinced, not that you are absolutely convinced. Almost is nearly synonymous with all but, but it sounds more phlegmatic. Very nearly is the definition given by Wiktionary (click the above link).

All but does not mean everything except; see it more as everything up to (i.e. All the way up to a state of convincedness, but not quite there).

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+1, though I want to emphasize that "almost" and "all but" are not really that synonymous. An "almost convinced" person is quite a bit more skeptical than an "all but convinced" person. If you are all but convinced, you don't really need any more convincing; if you are almost convinced, however, you do. –  alcas Dec 13 '11 at 20:32
    
Maybe phlegmatic wasn't the right choice of word. There, I made the wording a little stronger. –  Daniel Dec 13 '11 at 20:36
    
I may be flummoxed; does this answer discord with english.stackexchange.com/a/9971/50720? –  LePressentiment Sep 20 '13 at 14:22
    
@LePressentiment No; does it look that way? –  Daniel Sep 25 '13 at 12:32
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When followed by an adjective, all but is an idiom and it means almost. In your example therefore, it means I am almost convinced that...

Perhaps you are confusing it with its other use. Consider: All but one of the cars were damaged. In this sentence, all but is followed by one which functions as a noun, and it means with one exception.

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