Occasional reflections on Life, the World, and Mathematics

Not going anywhere


Is it a good thing to be “not going anywhere”? I thought about this when I read President Obama’s comment that “Planned Parenthood is not going anywhere”. As with many things in life, it depends on what the alternative is. It could mean “not going someplace good”. In Obama’s phrase, where it’s not going is presumably “away”, or into the dustbin of history. Or going downhill.

It’s another example of a self-negation, an expression that can mean two exact opposites. If Planned Parenthood is “going downhill”, we mean the future looks bleak. If it’s “all downhill from here for PP”, the future looks pretty good. The difference in metaphorical emphasis between these two is subtle. In “going downhill” we emphasise that up is good and down is bad, and don’t explicitly mention the relative difficulty of going up and down. In “all downhill from here” we think about the difficulty of going up relative to down, and ignore the question of whether it’s better to be up or down. The attention is focused on some sort of forward motion that presumably has been impeded by the uphill slog. So if PP isn’t going anywhere, it’s not going downhill. If it is going somewhere, it’s because it’s all downhill from here.

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