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I think "so" in "you're so not cool" emphasizes the whole sentence.

Whereas, "so" in "you're not so cool" emphasizes "cool", meaning "very cool".

I am not sure whether I'm right.

So, What is the difference between "you're so not cool" & "you're not so cool"?

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  • @JavaLatte, it is not a duplicate. It means something else
    – Tom
    Apr 15 '16 at 7:41
  • It's about the relative positions of "not" and "so", and as you pointed out, the meaning of "so" in these sentences is "very".
    – JavaLatte
    Apr 15 '16 at 7:46
  • @JavaLatte it's a good point and I've posted a question in meta about this here
    – Peter
    Apr 15 '16 at 16:14
  • I am voting to reopen this question as it is not a duplicate and is really related with English Language Learning.
    – user24743
    Apr 15 '16 at 20:14
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In short: you're correct.

Long-form: The use of "so" in

You're so not cool.

is extremely idiomatic, and informal. It's used to emphasize the degree to which "you" are "not cool". The result is a superlative statement, in a way, declaring the level of "not-cool-ness" to be extreme, and beyond measure. Verbally, the word "so" would be strongly stressed.

Compare:

You're not cool.

You're so not-cool [that I'm at a loss for words to express myself further].

This construct would be well placed in the film "Mean Girls", delivered as an insult with a dismissive and exasperated affect.

Conversely, placing "so" after "not" is much more thoughtful, (though still critical.) In this case the sentence suggests that the listener has an overly-inflated ego, or perhaps that the speaker formerly thought that the listener was once a "cooler" person than they are now perceived to be. The "not" is used as a polarity switch, and "so" is used as a modifier of "cool".

Compare:

You're so cool.

You're not so cool [as you think you are/as I thought you were].

This phrasing would likely show up in a light comedy scene, as a form of criticism, but lacking malice. It could be said between friends, and be at least forgivable, or maybe delivered and taken entirely as a joke, or "ribbing".

One may notice here that, as is common in English, both examples are used as shorthand to express a longer idea, which I spelled out in [square brackets], making them both "jargon", and incomplete in themselves.

Citing my source: I'm a native speaker of American English, raised in California, with some college, several years of customer service communication, and an author for a parent. Practical linguistics is a hobby.

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  • Very nice answer.
    – user24743
    Apr 15 '16 at 20:15

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