I'm interested in the phrase 'not half bad', which, like 'cheap at half the price' actually means the opposite of what the user is generally trying to say. The term 'not half!' is commonly used to mean 'definitely', as in 'and the rest!'

So, when a person says 'not half bad' it doesn't make sense to me. It's like 'cheap at half the price', which literally means the opposite of what the user is trying to say.

What does the expression "Not half bad" mean? What do people use it to say?

closed as not a real question by cornbread ninja 麵包忍者, waiwai933 Mar 21 '13 at 23:11

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  • Seems to me that this isn't a real question. I edited an edit that I thought wasn't helpful. I disagree with the OP's interpretations of both phrases. When I use "Not half bad", I mean that what I'm talking about is so-so, but a little bit better than 50% good, namely, about 51%. Not even "pretty good", but good enough in a pinch. "Cheap at half the price" means to me that the price is satisfactory, even though this is an illogical interpretation: to be honest, I never really thought about this one till just now. There's no logic in some idioms. – user21497 Mar 22 '13 at 4:26
  • To continue: Michael Quinion & others point out that the latter expression confuses a lot of people, which is as it should be, because the phrase is ambiguous. In my experience, it's used to approve of a price, not to say that it's too high. Thus many users, commentators point out, misunderstand what it means. Quinion's argument is convincing, but that doesn't change the fact that people use it two different ways. Humpty Dumpty's alive & well in all of us: "When I use a word,...it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less....The question is, which is to be master--that's all," – user21497 Mar 22 '13 at 4:35

It is like saying 'the glass is not half empty'... e.g. that it is half full.

It is a negation of thing being half 'bad', thus it is half-good, and the colloquialism grants that the half-good part quality of the thing is sufficient, interesting, or surprising enough to warrant attention.

  • Exactly. But, just for argument's sake, not half bad could also mean 95% bad. One could scream it in despair: "OMG... it's not half bad at least..." :P – SmokerAtStadium Mar 21 '13 at 22:05
  • @RaduMiron personally, I've never read nor heard that usage. There are many things that could mean something else, if they weren't used in their context of time and culture. – New Alexandria Mar 22 '13 at 3:28

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