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I found the phrase, “views and non-views” in the following sentence of the New Yorker article (October 15) titled “Are Debates Good for Republican,” which was written by its senior editor, Amy Davidson on recent Republican candidate debates live telecasted from Las Vegas:

The wheel (of Republican candidates debates) always seems to have stopped and settled on Mitt Romney; and then it is spinning again, along with our heads, and we are watching videos of Herman Cain in a white robe singing a song about pizza that seems taken from the last episode of “Lost.” The song has the virtue of being less discordant than Cain’s foreign-policy views, or non-views, but only barely.

I think "non-view" is used as an antithesis to “view,” and I guess it means absence of a solid view. However, when I tried to get clearer idea of “non-view” from dictionaries, no dictionary including Cambridge Dictionary, Merriam-Webster and other online dictionaries carries the word, “non-view(s)".

Are “non-view(s)" and “views and non-views” well-received English word and phrase? Does "non-views" stand alone without "views"?

I know “non” as a prefex to be used as in nonbank, non-stop, non-politic, but feel somewhat odd when it comes out as “non-views” just like "non-comment" and "non-answer" as against "no comments" and "no answer." Why the writer doesn’t plainly say “Cain’s foreign-policy views or lack (or absence) of views”?

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The OED tells us that non- is:

Prefixed to nouns of action, condition, or quality with the sense ‘absence or lack of’, often corresponding semantically to ‘not doing, failure to do’ (where a verb is implied by the noun, as in non-accomplishment, lack of accomplishment, failure to accomplish) or to ‘not being, failure to be’ (where an adjective is implied by the noun, as in non-activity, lack of activity, failure to be active).

However, there is no record of non-view or non-views in either the British National Corpus of the Corpus of Contemporary American English, and it is not in the Oxford English Dictionary. That at least tells us that it is not commonly found. At the same time, writers are free to invent a word if they think it fulfils their communicative purpose. Whether doing so is successful in this case is a matter of stylistic judgment.

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  • Was item from OED cut and pasted. @Barrie? First word's missing 'f'. Commented Oct 19, 2011 at 7:31
  • Non- is sometimes used somewhat sarcastically in US prose, as it is in this sentence. The point here is that Cain says (and perhaps thinks) nothing substantive on topics of FP. (For more such usage, check out all the Urban Dictionary entries starting with the prefix.)
    – user13141
    Commented Oct 19, 2011 at 7:36
  • @onomatomaniak. What does FP mean? I checked it on Google, which gave me most of its usage as “Financial Planer.” Commented Oct 19, 2011 at 8:50
  • @jwpat7. Thanks for spotting. My mistake. Now corrected. Commented Oct 19, 2011 at 10:33
  • @YoichiOishi FP = Foreign Policy
    – user13141
    Commented Oct 19, 2011 at 11:58

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