A man asked me yesterday, “Do you need your receipt at all?”
Besides the fact that this is an odd way to put it (he was foreign), it got me thinking about that phrase, “at all”. What in the world does it mean?
Do you want your receipt? Not at all! Do you like cartoons? Not at all! Why isn’t anything ever yes at all? Do you want ice cream tomorrow? Yes at all!
No. That doesn’t sound right.
So what’s the literal meaning here? What are we doing at All? Are we at All like we can be at the mall? When we’re at All, do we not need, want, or like anything we don’t need, want, or like? So when someone asks if we want something we don’t want, we can say, “Not at all!”, because when you’re at All, you can clearly make that choice?
No. That doesn’t sound right, either. In fact, that sounds like a confusing bunch of garble.
The omniscient Internet is of no assistance in this matter. All remains lost in history, shrouded in mystery.