Not a native English speaker. I noticed for a long time now some speakers use a second sentence consisting of a single word, "not", as a way to entirely negate the former sentence and generally in a humorous way. For example: "I like your shirt. Not." Is this correct English or just something people understand even though it is not grammatically correct? I am asking this because in my native language, French, there is no way to negate this easily. I could translate "or not" (by "ou pas") but not just "not". Any details about this separate "not", historical or linguistic will be appreciated.

  • I've always regarded this as a term from "Valley Speak", a California youth subculture that arose in the 80s.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Feb 24, 2021 at 21:19
  • The usual response these days is "the 1990s called. They want their 'Not!' back". Commented Feb 24, 2021 at 22:46
  • 1
    This came into popular use after it was used in a Saturday Night Live comedy sketch called "Wayne's world". Before that people would have understood it, but that's when the joke really took off.
    – JohnFx
    Commented Feb 24, 2021 at 23:09

1 Answer 1


It is an idiomatic nonstandard usage especially in informal, humorous contexts:


​(humorous, informal) used to emphasize the opposite of a statement.

Well, that sounds like a fun evening—not!


It usage dates back to the beginning of the 20th century but was made popular a few decades ago:


As an interjection to negate what was said before or reveal it as sarcasm, it is attested by 1900, popularized 1989 by "Wayne's World" sketches on "Saturday Night Live" TV show.


From: American Speech Vol. 68, No. 2 (Summer, 1993), pp. 213 Published by: Duke University Press.

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  • Thanks but I am not sure what your "yes" is an answer to because I offered two options. Are you saying this is grammatically correct English then, although informal?
    – Winston
    Commented Feb 24, 2021 at 20:29
  • 2
    It is an idiomatic nonstandard usage of not.
    – user 66974
    Commented Feb 24, 2021 at 20:34
  • Okay thank you for clarifying.
    – Winston
    Commented Feb 24, 2021 at 20:36
  • The Japanese language has a similar construct that is often translated as: “- is what I’d like to say”. Commented Feb 26, 2021 at 3:42

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