7

I searched on the Internet and found the opposite of 'somewhere' is 'nowhere.' This confuses me, because I see it like this:

  • The opposite of "everywhere" (at all places) is "nowhere" (at no places).

  • The opposite of "somewhere" (at some place) in my logic-thinking should be something like "manywhere" (at many places).

  • I know 'manywhere' is not an accepted English word. But the English construction {no, some, any, every} + "where" seems to have left-out a concise and logical way to express "manywhere".

The following fictional dialog demonstrates my questions/thinking. This is not factual:

  • "Have you heard about the ritual of hanging a voodoo doll on buildings under construction to keep away negative energy?"

    "Yeah, I saw that somewhere in my home town of New York City."

    "Well in India, you can find that everywhere."

    "What? Voodoo dolls are in every construction building in India?"

    "No! I mean, you can find that manywhere. Many places have it - not every one."

    (You see, I don't want to say, "In India, you can find that everywhere" because that would mean every construction building would have a voodoo doll.)

This question is not about "manywhere" which is asked here as a separate question. But it is to help me understand the logic behind the opposite of "somewhere" and how can one discuss "many places" with a lack of a "manywhere-type word". It's not logical to me. What are the various acceptable ways to express "many places" as described above? Can I use "many where"? It'll still solve the problem.

(I would like to acknowledge @CoolHandLouis for very helpful editing of this Question.)

  • 4
    I would say "you find it everywhere" or all around, or "they are all over the place" or everywhere you go or something like that. thesaurus.com/browse/everywhere – CowperKettle Feb 14 '14 at 7:14
  • 1
    @CopperKettle That's what the catch is! everywhere is different than many where. Like 7/10 buildings I saw under constructions would have it. That is 'many where' and not 'everywhere' where it would be 10/10! – Maulik V Feb 14 '14 at 7:17
  • 2
    One solution to work around "everywhere implies 10/10" is to say almost everywhere instead. – Damkerng T. Feb 14 '14 at 9:58
  • 1
    @MaulikV I submitted an Edit to your Question to separate it into two questions. If it's not to your liking you can easily revert it back. I think you'll appreciate a direct ELL/ESL/EFL answer here to the question, "what is the best/correct usage?" The other question, "why not manywhere?" is very interesting, and I think deserves a more theoretical discussion that is not in the spirit of ell.se. Given it's own thread in the right forum, I think answers to that will help you even more. My intuition says this is what you really want. – CoolHandLouis Feb 15 '14 at 13:50
  • 1
    @CoolHandLouis (and MaulikV, this is for you, too) Ordinarily I would reject an edit on this scale; I approved this one because I think it not only clarifies what is being asked but makes it very easy for Maulik to break out the second part into a new question. I agree that both are excellent questions and deserve the spirited answers they are provoking. – StoneyB on hiatus Feb 15 '14 at 14:43
9

(I address only your first question here; I hope you will break the second out to another post.)

SHORT ANSWER: Restrict your use of terms like somewhere and anywhere and everywhere to the colloquial register, and avoid them in the formal register.

LONG ANSWER:

  1. With regard to somewhere: the some part of this collocation never has the sense “a few”, contrasting with “many” or “all”. It always means ”at least one“ (in many, perhaps most, cases “exactly one” is implied: I can’t find my glasses; they’ve gotta be somewhere), and it contrasts with “none”. The antonym of somewhere is nowhere.

  2. With regard to everywhere: allow me to tip my hat to CoolHandLouis’ handle and say that “What we have here is a failure to communicate across registers.”

    The primary function of language—not just English but any language, not just some or many languages but all languages and every language—is to mediate ordinary everyday discourse: what grammarians call the ‘colloquial register’.

    I have written elsewhere on this site that the colloquial register is governed by the ‘Tolerance Maxim’: Whatever should be understood may be omitted. That is, the colloquial register tolerates a great degree of imprecision because speakers-together assume that they bring to the discourse a common understanding of words and syntax and the real world which does not have to be explicitly articulated.

    For instance, if you say to me, in the course of the conversation you have described, “Oh, yeah, we’ve got voodoo dolls everywhere in India”, there are many critical qualifications to that statement which you tacitly assume I bring to interpreting your utterance:

    • You assume that I understand that when you say voodoo you don’t intend a specific reference to the practices of Louisiana Voodoo or Haitian Vodou or American Hoodoo or Dahomeyan Vodun but to an Indian practice analogous to these.
    • You assume that I understand that when you say everywhere the scope of the every piece is not all places but the places specifically identified earlier in the discourse, viz., construction sites.
    • Most importantly for our current discussion, you assume that I understand that the collocation everywhere does not mean “in every place of the sort previously defined” but “widely distributed throughout places of the sort previously defined”.

    In the colloquial register this is not a problem: everybody understands that everywhere means “in lots of places”, just as somewhere means “in at least one place”. It only becomes problematic when you move terms like these into the formal register. The formal register is based on the written language, which does not tolerate nearly so much ‘conversational implicature’ as the spoken language. It is governed by the ‘Adamantine Law’: Whatever can be misunderstood will be.

    Scientists and philosophers and mathematicians and programmers require a very high degree of expressive precision. Their form of discourse needs terms like some and every and many to mean the same thing in every context; the common understanding which prevails in the colloquial register is intolerably contingent and sloppy for their purposes. (It is not in fact sloppy, it is quite precise; but it is contingent.) This is very amusingly illustrated in a brief monologue from the revue Beyond the Fringe in which Jonathan Miller impersonates the philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell; you may listen to it here.

    The upshot is that terms like somewhere and anywhere and everywhere should be avoided in the formal register. In fact, my wife (who teaches Freshman Composition at a local university) explicitly tells her students that the some-, any-, every- terms are Red Flags: they almost always tell her that the writer has failed to specify something which needs narrower specification. In the formal register using a coinage like manywhere, to distinguish your meaning from somewhere and everywhere is simply an evasion of the real problem, which is that you shouldn’t be using these terms at all. You should be saying exactly what you mean, which is probably something on the order of:

    We find dolls of this sort on construction sites throughout India.


The term ‘register’ is a musical metaphor. A register is a mechanical device on pipe organs, activated by a ‘stop’ on the manual, which determines whether a particular set or ‘rank’ of pipes is sounded in playing. The sense of the term was gradually extended to the particular pitch and timbre of a rank of pipes, then to the various pitches and timbres of other instruments and of the human voice, and eventually to the analogous ‘styles’ of language employed in various sorts of discourse.

  • This site is extremely fun to contribute to. It's also extremely educational, and I'm getting the grammatical education that I never got in school. Thanks for the discussion of "register"! – Wayne Feb 15 '14 at 19:31
  • I'd also add that in logic/mathematics, as you mention, there are very specific uses of words like this. There are even specialized symbols for "for all" and "there exists". And "some" (as in "for some number x") does not indicate "more than a couple, but less than a lot", as it might mean in casual speech, but rather a particular, but unspecified value. – Wayne Feb 15 '14 at 19:38
  • @Wayne Yes, I should probably add 'mathematicians' above, though I tend to lump them in with 'philosophers' - e.g., Russell - as users of closed languages. – StoneyB on hiatus Feb 15 '14 at 20:02
  • You mean some people practice that is not possible? Because some is always one? Somewhere is just one place? Sure? If at all its just one place the perfectly fitting word for many places is manywhere right? – Maulik V Feb 16 '14 at 7:53
  • 1
    @MaulikV I will address the 'manywhere' matter at your other question. The 'some' in 'somewhere' is not the quantifier OALD #1 but the indefinite #5. – StoneyB on hiatus Feb 16 '14 at 14:49
2

I do like the coining of manywhere, however, I am not aware of it being an established word yet :)

The problem with antonyms is comparable to that with synonyms: they are never exact, and there are few, if any, perfect pairs. (Well, in antonyms you do have quite a few compared to synonyms).

The opposite of some can be said to be none, hence somewhere <-> nowhere.

However, since some means more than zero, _but not a lot_, the antonym none does not cover the whole meaning.

If I focus on the not a lot part, the antonym of some would be many. Hence your manywhere.

However, the word anywhere can be used idiomatically to mean something along the lines of "anywhere you look". In that case it gets the meaning "in many places, though not necessarily in all places".

That serves very nicely as an antonym to somewhere, and it is often used as such.

I guess the reason that there is no manywhere (in use) is because anywhere fulfils exactly that role as a word.

  • So you mean "Oh, here in India, you find it anywhere"? – Maulik V Feb 14 '14 at 8:41
  • 1
    Indeed. Although I have to admit I prefer your manywhere :) – oerkelens Feb 14 '14 at 8:46

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.