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There was the following paragraph in Washington Post (March 26) article under the headline, “The 5-minutes fix: What to make of Stormy Daniels.

“Daniels is openly profiting from her newfound fame with more jobs and by becoming a national figure. That’s desirable outcome for anyone in the entertaining industry, much less a porn star who wasn’t a household name before all this.”

Here the phrase, ”much less” is used apparently in positive context, following the previous remark. I was under impression that “much less” is used to emphasize negative aspect of the preceding statement. Actually,

www.merriam–webster defines “much less” as “not to mention, used especially in negative contexts to add to one item another denoting something else.”

www.collinsdictionary defines it as “You use much less after a statement, often after a negative one, to indicate that the statement is more true of a person, thing, or situation that you are going to mention next.”

Cambridge dictionary defines it “and certainly not.”

Is it normal to use “much less” in positively reaffirming the preceding statement as used in the Washington Post’s article?

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    I'm surprised that any sense other than CED's 'and certainly not', introducing an even more unlikely scenario, is even hinted at. Here, '..., to say nothing of ...' is standard. / The quote does not appear to be totally accurate, though the usage is correctly quoted. Mar 27, 2018 at 0:34
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    It's not a very good choice of words, and it tends to imply the opposite of what was apparently meant.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 27, 2018 at 1:06

1 Answer 1

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Examples on the internet

I have found some cases in which there is a statement followed by much less to emphasise that statement, I'll quote them here (all quotes are from nytimes.com):

Link to the article (quote below)

As solemn families prepared Tuesday to bury the six young people killed in a shooting rampage here, some residents questioned whether the gunman, a sheriff’s deputy and local police officer, should ever have been allowed to carry a badge, much less a gun. 1

Link to the article (quote below)

An indictment, much less a trial, would make a political comeback all the more unlikely for Mr. Ozawa, who has largely dropped from public view. 2

Link to the reader's letter (quote below)

Can I have read that any patient in a veterans hospital -- much less a former Congressman -- lies covered by ''a torn gray blanket''? 3

To find these quotes I've searched for "much less a" site:nytimes.com on Google. Most results used the idiom the way the dictionary defines it, but based on the quotes in my answer I'd say this way of using it is not wrong.

Some more links to New York Times articles using the idiom similarly (fully quoting them all seems unnecessary, searching the page for much less will highlight the quote): first, second, third, fourth and fifth.

Attribution

1 Davey, M., and Capecchi, C. "Gunman in Rampage Had Been Certified to Be an Officer, State Authorities Say." The New York Times. October 10, 2007. Accessed March 27, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/10/us/10rampage.html.

2 Fackler, M. "Panel Seeks to Indict Japan Political Boss Ozawa." The New York Times. October 04, 2010. Accessed March 27, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/05/world/asia/05japan.html.

3 Strattner, N. "The Subversive." The New York Times. June 15, 1997. Accessed March 27, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/1997/06/15/magazine/l-the-subversive-605786.html.

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    Your first example is reasonably idiomatic. The other two are confusing, and different words should have been used. (One wonders if "much less" has recently acquired a meaning different from the the one that would be assumed by those of us born before the Internet.)
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 27, 2018 at 1:10

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