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As a follow up to this etymology question, does "so far, so good" carry a negative connotation?

For example, after having her sonogram, my wife asked the technician if everything was okay. The technician replied, "so far, so good." My wife later remarked that she didn't like that the technician used the phrase because it sounded like things will be going wrong later.

I always thought this phrase was positive and that it was a replacement for the word "good."

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When I hear "so far, so good" I expect a "but". It means that it isn't bad, but it's also not good. But it's more in direction of good, than bad. –  Em1 May 31 '12 at 11:55
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Probably a poor choice of words, but as a side note: technicians often aren't allowed to quantify anything without express consent of the physician. So the person was probably answering in as neutral a way as possible. –  horatio May 31 '12 at 15:20
    
Just so it's clear, "so far so good" is not a negative thing at all. In emotionally charged situation, like at a doctor's office, a doctor saying 'yes' can be judged back and forth as to its negative implications. –  Mitch May 31 '12 at 19:55
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10 Answers

The phrase means that everything went well until now, and you are not sure if things will carry on like this, or something bad will happen in the future, but it doesn't carry a negative connotation. It just means that so far everything is good, and you don't know what is going to happen next.

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+1 for a nice, clear, informative, short answer. One might add that it at least suggests that the speaker is unwilling to take responsibility for making any prediction; in this case that is entirely appropriate professional behavior for a technician. On the other hand, if a physician had said the same thing, a month later after seeing all the results, then would be the time to sniff around for a negative connotation. –  John Lawler May 31 '12 at 15:54
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@John's idea of the speaker avoiding any prediction seems to me the essential part of this phrase. The tech is perfectly happy with the results through to the present, but for fear of [jinx/lawsuit/ethics/etc] is unwilling to state categorically that the future is positive. –  Drew Christianson May 31 '12 at 16:57
    
Add to @DrewChristianson in that some techs seem to be forbidden to render any opinion, that being the exclusive domain of the Dr. –  user14070 Jun 1 '12 at 14:05
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I think it indicates a cautious optimism.....the person doesn't want to imply that because things have gone fine so far that things will continue to go fine and that you can consider it all done, or it will be a slam-dunk....i.e. more barriers have to be overcome yet.

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+1 for cautious optimism –  rishimaharaj May 31 '12 at 14:05
    
I like this answer. It is succinct and precise. I'd avoid the '...' though. It doesn't serve any purpose in your answer. –  Anup Jun 5 '12 at 18:57
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I'd say it was neutral rather than negative. It means something like Everything's OK so far. Let's hope it stays that way.

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I would agree that the phrase is neutral. I think that intonation could cast it into a more negative light. Although I don't imagine using it in a wholly positive way. –  user14070 Jun 1 '12 at 14:06
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It literally means "good so far", but context is key here: if you'd normally expect an unreservedly positive response, then "so far, so good" can be interpreted negatively. For example, when I get in the elevator at lunchtime and ask a co-worker how it's going, the default polite response is "Fine". If they say "so far, so good", I can interpret that as "the storm hasn't hit yet, but there's the whole afternoon to go".

Another interpretation is "I'm not done yet, let me finish"...I would guess that is what the tech was probably trying to say to your wife in this case. And it was not a good way to say it, considering the circumstances.

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I don't think "so far, so good" implies that something will go wrong later, not nearly as much as it implies it does that something can go wrong later.

I might use those words to describe the status of a major project that appears to be on-time, or a to report progress on a long trip that has been without incident.

As for applying it to a sonogram, I'll admit, maybe that's not the best choice of words. Then again, maybe the technician interpreted the question differently. By asking, "Is everything okay?" your wife may have meant, "Does the baby look healthy?" but the technician may have interpreted it as "Is all the equipment working fine?" or "Is the image clear?" or even "How has your day gone so far?" After all, after a technician has performed a dozen of these per day, week after week, month after month, he's probably encountered all sorts of technical problems.

As I said, maybe not the best choice of words, but I doubt very much that he intended to sound ominous.

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Whoever voted you down should at indicated why they did so. –  Evik James May 31 '12 at 19:07
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@Evik: My answer is not nearly as good as those who answered before me. I thought my "looking at it from the technician's point of view" was an interesting take; still, I can think of a few reasons why someone wouldn't like the answer. Even with the downvote, how do I feel? Well... so far, so good :^) –  J.R. May 31 '12 at 20:11
    
Well there are always those guys that down vote you because of their friend or because they have a bad day. There is nothing wrong to be passionate about language, but it is always a pleasure to find people like J.R. @ClarkKent. Recently we had an argue about something and he wrote me a comment on the next day that I might have been right. There is nothing wrong in arguing and down-voting, but it is always good to hear a good word for you in the end of the day. –  speedyGonzales Jun 1 '12 at 14:33
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I would say that the connotation is neither negative, neither positive, it is neutral. It means that in the course of events everything is fine UNTIL now.

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"So far so good" means that things are "fine" in the up-to-now sense of the word. What your wife found missing in the phrase was an "all clear" for the future.

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It is foreboding, but it also means that you have already surpassed an obstacle that you thought could cause failure. Thus, it would be used as a positive statement in a dangerous situation. I am not sure if that makes it negative or not.

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"So far, so good" has a neutral connotation.

The only negative I can see in it is that it isn't unreservedly positive.

In cases where such a positive answer might be expected, failing to give one might be seen as negative in comparison.

However, in the specific scenario, giving a premature positive answer would be unprofessional, so I don't think you should see any negative connotation here.

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The difference between “so far, so good” and simply “good” is that the former implies a lack of guarantees about the future. “So far, so good” connotes that things can go wrong later, but not that they will go wrong later — unless used in an ironic or humorous context such as “I plan to live forever; so far, so good.”

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protected by RegDwigнt May 31 '12 at 15:32

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