Are litotes more common in Australian English, especially colloquial speech, compared to other dialects of English such as American English?

I could find on ELU a comment stating that this is the case, but nothing else.

I like to think they are more common in Australian English, but that could be nationalistic bias on my part.

  • If you name some very specific litotes, you can do a corpora search... if you can find an Australian specific corpus.
    – Mitch
    Jun 19 '15 at 12:50
  • 8
    A not entirely uninteresting question. Jun 19 '15 at 12:52
  • 3
    Do a proximity search of the corpora for "in the jaws of a salt-water croc" near "minor inconvenience" or "no big deal".
    – TRomano
    Jun 19 '15 at 13:56
  • 1
    This is a really fascinating question. It's pretty common in the US, too, but I'm not sure how to measure it. It's also exceptionally difficult to draw the line between litotes and sarcasm, at times.
    – webbcode
    Jun 19 '15 at 14:16
  • 1
    All you hafta do is get a million or two spoken Australian sentences and count the litotes, then do the same for some other place for comparison. Go ahead. Jun 19 '15 at 15:03

They do seem more common here. They might be part of the 'laconic' ethos. I have the sense they are less popular with the young and the media, to whom everything is 'wow', 'amazing'. I doubt if there's any foolproof way to test your theory. I suppose you could do a google search for 'not bad','not exactly a xxx', etc and see if you can get the source country. There'd be a lot of subculture variations too.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.