Older users of this site may recall the 'Bill & Ted' 'Wayne's World' series of movies of the early 1990s. They were mindless but fairly amusing and their eponymous characters spoke in a unique vernacular, part-stoner, part-surfer, part-moronic generation MTVer. One of the features of this sub-language was the use of the word 'Not' usually written as (NOT), a convention which served to negate the content or validity of what had been said previously.


"I think your wife is very attractive. (NOT)"  


"I love your new hairstyle. (NOT)"

Does anyone know if this usage is a modern invention or whether there are antecedents in ancient or more recent languages which are similarly employed to, wittily or otherwise, invalidate previous statements spoken? I'm not necessarily looking for usages of 'not' itself, but any similar linguistic devices.

  • 3
    This is not from Bill and Ted, it's from Waynes World Commented Sep 5, 2011 at 21:41
  • hints to search: At that particular time, the Saturday Night Live skit 'Wayne's World' had become a movie, and was famous for pointedly using the single 'not' construction. I don't remember at the time the Bill and Ted movies (the first one was out in 1989 and WW in 1992) so a confirming quote from either would help. But of course people forget the prior SNL skit from the 70's where Steve Martin used the construction. Before that...I don't have any ideas.
    – Mitch
    Commented Sep 5, 2011 at 21:48
  • 4
    I seem to remember it wasn't uncommon to append ", I don't think!" as a jocular negating addendum, as far back as the 60s. You often hear "Nah! - Just kidding!" used today to the same effect. But I must admit that (NOT) has overtones of "baby-talk" to me. Commented Sep 5, 2011 at 22:10
  • Argh - I think I've just publicly had my first 'senior moment' - of course it was Wayne's World. Yours sheepishly etc., etc.
    – immutabl
    Commented Sep 5, 2011 at 22:54
  • I've seen the usage in one of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe mysteries (though I don't remember which, offhand), which date from the '30s to mid-70s.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 19:42

3 Answers 3


The Oxford English Dictionary includes this form of not as an interjection, writing:

colloq. [perhaps influenced by nit adv. (see J. T. Sheidlower and J. E. Lighter in Amer. Speech (1993) 68 213–8). In later use, popularized by Mike Myers and Dana Carvey in the ‘Wayne's World’ sketches on the NBC television programme Saturday Night Live from 1989, and especially by the spin-off film Wayne's World in 1992.] Used humorously following a statement to indicate that it should not be taken seriously (usually because the idea expressed is untrue or unlikely to happen), or sarcastically to negate a statement made immediately before.

There are actually uses of this in the 1800s:

[1860 ‘G. Eliot’ Mill on Floss III. vi. vi. 90 She would make a sweet, strange, troublesome, adorable wife to some man or other, but he would never have chosen her himself. Did she feel as he did? He hoped she did—not.]

1888 Cincinnati Times-Star 26 July 2/2 Of course ‘White Wings’ was mourned because he was hissed. Yes he did—not!!!

1893 Princeton Tiger 30 Mar. 103 An Historical Parallel—Not.

After these uses, Wayne's World popularized the phrase in the late 20th century.

  • 4
    The 1800s usage is distinctly different, insofar as it involves a simple pause in timing before completing the negation of the verb. In Wayne's World, the entire sentence was completed, and the negation happened separately from the verb, so the entire sentence was negated.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Sep 6, 2011 at 1:14
  • 8
    The Princeton Tiger (whatever that is) example is no different as I see it.
    – z7sg Ѫ
    Commented Sep 6, 2011 at 13:16
  • @z7sgѪ: The Princeton Tiger is a humor magazine written by Princeton University students. Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 23:13
  • What does "nit adv." mean in the OED quote? Commented Dec 31, 2013 at 3:30
  • 2
    @hippietrail actually they do go together... "nit adv." means "the entry for the word 'nit' as an adverb", which does exist in OED. It's a synonym for "not", first citation 1894, last citation 1942, and a note of "frequently used humorously or ironically following a statement to indicate that it should not be believed or taken seriously."
    – hobbs
    Commented Jan 26, 2020 at 3:35

In defense of 5arx's initial association of the interjection "not!" with the Bill & Ted comedy franchise, I note this chronological listing in J.E. Lighter, Random House Dictionary of Historical American Slang (1997):

1991 Bill & Ted's Adventures (CBS-TV): Smooth move, dude! Not! 1992 M. Myers et al. Wayne's World (film): Wayne'll understand that right away. Not!

Still, as simchona points out, Wayne's World is generally credited with the resurgence in popularity of the usage—which in any case is more than 100 years old. In addition to the Princeton Tiger instance that simchona cites, Lighter notes such modern-sounding instances as these two:

1905 E.P. Butler, in Amer. Magazine (Sept.) 499: Cert'nly, me dear frind, Flannery. Delighted. Not! 1908 in Canemaker W. McCay 75: That confounded rarebit I ate...is making me sleep lovely. NOT!!!

You can confirm Lighter's findings in the Google Books entries for Ellis Butler's short story "Pigs Is Pigs" and for Mark Dunn, Zounds!: A Browser's Dictionary of Interjections (2005). Besides identifying the 1908 example as being from a Winsor McCay cartoon (presumably part of the Dream of the Rarebit Fiend series), Dunn points to an even earlier instance, by George Ade, that uses not similarly. From George Ade, "The Fable of What Happened the Night the Men Came to the Women's Club," in More Fables in Slang (1900):

Now Josephine was right there to see that Everybody had a Nice Time, and she did not like to see the Prominent Business Men of the Town dying of Thirst or Leg Cramp or anything like that, so she gave two or three of them the Quiet Wink, and they tiptoed after her out to the Dining Room, where she offered Refreshments, and said they could slip out on the Side Porch and Smoke if they wanted to.

Probably they preferred to go back in the Front Room and hear some more about Woman's Destiny not.

Another fairly early instance appears in Shirley Seifert, "The Nicest Boy and What the Smartest Girl in the Office Did to Him," in The Delineator (July-August 1920):

"Isn't it a cold night?" she [Kitty] said snippily to the gloomy, immaculate young man who called for her at eight the night of the party.

"So-so," said Benny, not committing himself.

"I think it's very warm myself," she said five minutes later.

"You just said it was cold," the young man reminded her. "Don't you know your own mind?"

"My, how polite you are—not!" said Kitty.

  • 1
    Thank you for the validation. I knew I'd heard those two say it, albeit the intervening three decades may have fogged the memory somewhat.
    – immutabl
    Commented Feb 17, 2023 at 10:58

No. I used to hear it in a somewhat simliar teenager-themed skit on SNL with its first cast back in the late '70's. (Gilda Radner played "Lisa Loopner" and Bill Murray played a nerdy boy named "Todd").

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