not at all

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.

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5 thoughts on “not at all

  1. It seems that Sam-I-Am persists with his Green Eggs and Ham promotion simply because the response is missing the perfunctory “not at all.” It seems that the good Dr. Seuss has taught us that “not Anywhere” is certainly different than “not at all.”

    I could not, would not, on a boat.
    I will not, will not, with a goat.
    I will not eat them in the rain.
    I will not eat them on a train.
    Not in the dark! Not in a tree!
    Not in a car! You let me be!
    I do not like them in a box.
    I do not like them with a fox.
    I will not eat them in a house.
    I do not like them with a mouse.
    I do not like them here or there.
    I do not like them ANYWHERE!

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