A small topic not undedicated to Double Negatives

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A small topic not undedicated to Double Negatives

Postby Damien » Wed Aug 06, 2008 3:50 pm UTC

After reading the search list, and finding the "Language that irks you" thread, I figured that it would be safe to make a solo double negative thread.
Yes, the double negative, by far one of the most annoying (and socially accepted) language error a person can make.

So what are some funny double negative sentences you've heard in your travels?

My favorite one is the classic "ain't none <insertwhatever>", implying to a rational thinker that there are in fact <insertwhatever> present.
When I pointed that out I got punched in the lip.

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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby ZLVT » Wed Aug 06, 2008 4:05 pm UTC

I ain't done no nothin'!
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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby goofy » Wed Aug 06, 2008 4:43 pm UTC

And that no woman has, nor never none
Shall mistress be of it
- Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

rational thinker

Actually, a rational thinker might be more likely to conclude that the "double negative" in some kinds of English is actually negative concord, where the negation spreads across multiple words. This is common in many languages.

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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby Supergrunch » Wed Aug 06, 2008 5:28 pm UTC

goofy wrote:rational thinker

Actually, a rational thinker might be more likely to conclude that the "double negative" in some kinds of English is actually negative concord, where the negation spreads across multiple words. This is common in many languages.

Hence why I was about to post "Je ne suis pas" as my example of a double negative. :wink:

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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby Quixotess » Wed Aug 06, 2008 7:45 pm UTC

goofy wrote:Actually, a rational thinker might be more likely to conclude that the "double negative" in some kinds of English is actually negative concord, where the negation spreads across multiple words. This is common in many languages.

Especially given the other things we spread around in sentences. Plurals, for instance. I know my Japanese teacher was massively irritated by the sentence "These are books." She thought "This is books" ought to be enough for anybody, and "This is two book" would be preferable.

About double negatives, I don't see a problem with them in an informal context. I think it's usually pretty clear whether people are using them to indicate a negative or a positive. So I tend not to collect examples. I thought "Barack Obama ain't never been called a bitch" was pretty funny though.
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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby Interactive Civilian » Thu Aug 07, 2008 12:36 am UTC

Damien wrote:Yes, the double negative, by far one of the most annoying (and socially accepted) language error a person can make.
(emphasis mine)

Double Negatives are errors? Why? I find them rather useful for adding the nuance of something being a weak or uncertain positive. :-/

[EDIT - way after the fact] With this statement, I am of course assuming that the speaker knows what he/she is doing when using them, rather than unintentionally throwing a "no" in after a negative, such as the examples posted above and below ("I ain't got no...").
Last edited by Interactive Civilian on Thu Aug 07, 2008 2:47 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby ZLVT » Thu Aug 07, 2008 1:37 am UTC

Traditionally, double negatives were correct in English and used to express emphasis on the negation.

Also, in afrikaans, like in french, the negated part is nestled between two "nie"s
Ek kan nie afrikaans praat nie (I can not afrikaans speak not)
If the sentence begins with a "nee" (no) it can take the place of the first "nie"
Nee, I kan nie (no, I can not)
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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby Avelion » Thu Aug 07, 2008 1:59 am UTC

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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby btilly » Thu Aug 07, 2008 4:28 am UTC

Have you ever notice that cannot really means "not-can"? I first noticed this when I considered why I cannot not do that meant I must do that rather than I can do that. Of course once you've noticed it, it is obvious. On the face of it "can not" should mean that I am able to not do it - in other words I'm not forced. But when we say cannot, we mean unable. Which is to say that we "not-can" do it.
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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Aug 07, 2008 5:32 am UTC

Hating on the double negatives, like hating on split infinitives and sentence-ending prepositions and the subjunctive "was", is a fairly recent trend in English. The interesting thing about all of these (besides, of course, the fact that they each have a long history in English, far predating the reactions against them), is that they rarely actually impede our understanding of something, especially once you remove the influence of decades of opposition have on our impressions of sentences that use them.

In other words, "I ain't never seen nobody wear nothin' like that before," if at all difficult to understand, is probably so largely because you've been conditioned to try reading each negation in a formally logical way, where it basically applies to everything else in the sentence after it, instead of reading each one as simply reinforcing the strength of the (single) overall negation, which is how negatives actually function in a number of languages, including many current and historical varieties of English.
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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby GhostWolfe » Thu Aug 07, 2008 5:59 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:... you've been conditioned to try reading each negation in a formally logical way, where it basically applies to everything else in the sentence after it ...

We've been approaching our language too mathematically? :shock:

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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby ZLVT » Thu Aug 07, 2008 7:03 am UTC

Yours was the 10,000th post in the language thread. Woo.

Interestingly, magyarul we seem to negate everything:
"nem csináltam semmit" [not I-did nothing(acc)] i.e. I didn't do nothing
"semmit se csináltam" [nothing(acc) not-even I-did] i.e. I didn't even do nothing or I did not even nothing
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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby BrainMagMo » Thu Aug 07, 2008 7:33 am UTC

GhostWolfe wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:... you've been conditioned to try reading each negation in a formally logical way, where it basically applies to everything else in the sentence after it ...

We've been approaching our language too mathematically? :shock:

/angell

Basically, yes.
Language should not resemble math.
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Though I instinctively am unable to say "Ain't no way none of those can't succeed"???

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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby Iori_Yagami » Thu Aug 07, 2008 8:04 am UTC

-Students, you should be aware of such nuance... In many languages of the world, there are so-called double negatives. Those are formed by negating the negated. In some languages, it makes the statement positive. In other languages, it enhances the negation. But, remember - in no language a double positive means negative!
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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby GhostWolfe » Thu Aug 07, 2008 8:45 am UTC

BrainMagMo wrote:Language should not resemble math.
Well, I suck at maths, might explain why I'm better at words.

BrainMagMo wrote:Though I instinctively am unable to say "Ain't no way none of those can't succeed"???
Overkill perhaps? One double negative per sentence is probably enough :)

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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Aug 07, 2008 2:16 pm UTC

No, it's rather because "not", I think, is generally only used once per sentence. "Doubling" up on negatives is usually in the form of changing some- and any- words to no- words*, not in the form of adding "not" more than once.

(In other words, there is a real grammar to the use of more than one negative, just like there is to other supposedly incorrect constructions that nonetheless exist in many dialects. It is still possible to be doing it wrong.)

* As in, the triples of some/any/no, something/anything/nothing, someone/anyone/no one, sometime/ever/never, sometimes/ever/never, somewhere/anywhere/nowhere, etc. It seems like either/either/neither kind of fits, as well, though there's only two on that case. (some-words are what we use in affirmative statements, and in some questions that are tentative or offering something. any-words are what we use in most other questions, and along with "not" in negative statements. no-words are what we use in other negative statements. "Double" negatives are usually formed by switching any- to no- despite already having a "not" earlier in the sentence.
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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby JayDee » Mon Aug 11, 2008 3:47 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Hating on the double negatives, like hating on split infinitives and sentence-ending prepositions and the subjunctive "was", is a fairly recent trend in English.

Huh. I guess that doesn't surprise me now. It did in Greek back when I started learning that - I remember thinking 'Hah! Double negatives were fine for Plato and Sophocles, take that primary school english teacher-man!"
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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby ndefontenay » Mon Aug 11, 2008 7:06 am UTC

Hence why I was about to post "Je ne suis pas" as my example of a double negative.


"Je NE suis PAS" is not a double negative. It's the negative form using 2 words in french.

For those reading a bit of french, check this out:
"Il est interdit de faire NI de NE PAS NE PAS faire" That's almost triple negative here x)

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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby goofy » Mon Aug 11, 2008 2:31 pm UTC

ndefontenay wrote:
Hence why I was about to post "Je ne suis pas" as my example of a double negative.


"Je NE suis PAS" is not a double negative. It's the negative form using 2 words in french.


"Using 2 words for the negative" is a "double negative", as far as I can see. More accurately, it's negative concord.

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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby acousticcarnival » Mon Aug 11, 2008 3:19 pm UTC

Two wrongs don't make a right,

But double negatives make a positive....

So Language should not be too mathematical, nor moral...

Alas, language is impossibly intertwined. What the problem may be is that we're looking at it all too logically.

They say, that when Eve ate from the tree of knowledge, what she gained was NOT "knowledge" but "logic."

One need not look too far to see the problems we encounter when logic overpowers intuition.
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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Aug 11, 2008 6:39 pm UTC

Right, two logical negations of a proposition are logically equivalent to the proposition itself. But natural language is not completely logical nor should it be. It's not meant merely to share factual information, but also get across all kinds of other things, which ability I think would disappear almost entirely were we to replace something interesting like English with something rigid and boring like Lojban.
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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby ZLVT » Tue Aug 12, 2008 5:38 am UTC

For once I agree, the distinction between "We're friends" and "we aren't not friends" is subtle but nonetheless useful and it'd be a shame to see it go
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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby 4=5 » Tue Aug 12, 2008 5:43 am UTC

don't worry, that one isn't a re-enforcing negative.

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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby masher » Tue Aug 12, 2008 5:53 am UTC

Saw this today in an email:

Not infrequently unable to find HSE staff when needed.


Took me a while to parse that...

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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Aug 12, 2008 5:54 am UTC

ZLVT wrote:For once I agree, the distinction between "We're friends" and "we aren't not friends" is subtle but nonetheless useful and it'd be a shame to see it go

4=5 wrote:don't worry, that one isn't a re-enforcing negative.

Yeah, as I said already, adding "not" does pretty much have the effect of (logically) negating the rest of the sentence.

And other so-called double negatives, which are there primarily to reinforce the negative nature of the sentence, are rarely ambiguous. In fact, even coming as I do from a language background that doesn't use them, I never have any trouble understanding sentences like "I haven't never seen him before" or "I haven't never seen none of them before" or "I don't never watch (no) TV". Sure, it looks odd and I wouldn't never say nothing like that in regular speech, but it's not a real impediment to communication, I think, and in fact adds to it with the ability to further emphasize a sentence that has already been made as grammatically negative as it's going to get.

masher wrote:Saw this today in an email:
Not infrequently unable to find HSE staff when needed.

Took me a while to parse that...

Yeah, but that's largely because those prefixed words aren't the same kind of negatives people are usually talking about when admonishing against double negation. There is a grammar to double negatives, and there is a way to be "doing it wrong" even by those standards. (Where "doing it wrong" basically means "communicating so ineffectually that *everyone* has a great deal of difficulty understanding what the hell you just said.)
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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby jaap » Tue Aug 12, 2008 12:55 pm UTC

Here's some song lyrics for those interested in multiples negatives - from Ian Dury and the Blockheads, "Clever Trevor":

Just cos I ain’t never ‘ad, no, nothing worth having
never ever, never ever, never ever
You ain’t got no call not to think I wouldn’t fall
into thinking that I ain’t too clever
And it ain’t not having one thing nor not another
either, neither is it anything, whatever
And it’s not not knowing that there ain’t nothing showing
and I answer to the name of Trevor, however

etc

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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby Aveteomni » Tue Aug 12, 2008 4:13 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Hating on the double negatives, like hating on split infinitives and sentence-ending prepositions and the subjunctive "was", is a fairly recent trend in English. The interesting thing about all of these (besides, of course, the fact that they each have a long history in English, far predating the reactions against them), is that they rarely actually impede our understanding of something, especially once you remove the influence of decades of opposition have on our impressions of sentences that use them.


Given that it doesn't, in fact, detract from the overall comprehension of the statement, how is hating on split infinitives or hating on the subjunctive "was" a recent trend? I may be wrong, but haven't both been around for.. millenia? The reason it is "incorrect" to use split infinitives in English is that in Latin the infinitives were one word, so it evolved into English that it was incorrect to separate to and the verb, although it really doesn't make a difference either way when one is writing in English. And the subjunctive has been around for just as long, it is simply not used as much in English as it was in Latin so some people don't use it at all. I don't use the double negatives as often nor do I know it's origin (except for certain nuances or as it is used in other languages) but it seems relatively pointless in most cases, except, as such cases like :
ZLVT wrote:For once I agree, the distinction between "We're friends" and "we aren't not friends" is subtle but nonetheless useful and it'd be a shame to see it go

But I just didn't follow how hating on split infinitives or the lack of the subjunctive where it should be is new, and I wanted to understand ^^.
Thanks

**edit** Upon further thought, the subjunctive, or, more exactly, the lack thereof, has often hampered my comprehension of a sentence, although it's mostly with the present or future form and not the past "was." For instance, if someone were to say "after breaking up, I will be very upset" as opposed to "after breaking up, I would be very upset" then it means that it's going to happen as opposed to its happening being a possibility. I know this because my girlfriend is Taiwanese, and, while she has a better grasp of English than most Americans, subtle nuances like the subjunctive are not usually taken into account =P.
I'll put something here when I see/think of something witty..

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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby goofy » Tue Aug 12, 2008 5:14 pm UTC

Aveteomni wrote:Given that it doesn't, in fact, detract from the overall comprehension of the statement, how is hating on split infinitives or hating on the subjunctive "was" a recent trend? I may be wrong, but haven't both been around for.. millenia?


The split infinitive dates from the 14th century. Sentence-ending prepositions date from Old English. Subjunctive was has been in writing for about 400 years. The trend of hating these things arose in the 18th century, possibly later in the case of subjunctive was.

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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Aug 12, 2008 6:50 pm UTC

goofy wrote:
Aveteomni wrote:Given that it doesn't, in fact, detract from the overall comprehension of the statement, how is hating on split infinitives or hating on the subjunctive "was" a recent trend? I may be wrong, but haven't both been around for.. millenia?

The split infinitive dates from the 14th century. Sentence-ending prepositions date from Old English. Subjunctive was has been in writing for about 400 years. The trend of hating these things arose in the 18th century, possibly later in the case of subjunctive was.

Right. Those language elements are old, and thinking they don't belong in English is new.

It was mostly a matter of the aesthetic preferences of one Robert Lowth, Bishop of London, in his 1762 book, A short introduction to English grammar.
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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby goofy » Tue Aug 12, 2008 8:22 pm UTC


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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby Hayden » Wed Aug 13, 2008 7:44 am UTC

First Person: So, where do you come from?
Second Person: I come from a place where we don't end out sentences in prepositions.
First Person: So, where do you come from, jackass?


On-topic:
I didn't do nothing!

I just sigh.

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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby ZLVT » Wed Aug 13, 2008 10:53 am UTC

HAHAHA awesome, though you messed up "our" for "out".
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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby Jaime_Wolf » Wed Aug 13, 2008 1:17 pm UTC

A better example of double negation is the French "Il n(sentential negation)'y a personne (nobody)." (Translation: Nobody is there.) You'll notice that both the verb and the object are negated.

A linguistics professor I once had shared a funny fact regarding this very issue. In the United States, schools generally punishes users of double negation (when used as a more emphatic negation) as speaking incorrectly. Ironically, there is a region in France where the dialect does NOT doubly negate. Schools in France generally punish users of single negation as speaking incorrectly.

I think the problem here is that no one has noted that double negatives, in modern English, function in both capacities at once. They can be used to imply a weaker negation (somewhat following a formal, logical definition of double negation): "You're not my friend, but you're not NOT my friend." However, they can ALSO function as an intensified negation: "I didn't see nothing." We don't have to pick one or the other of these to accept as correct because our intuition easily distinguishes between the two, making them both useful constructions.

Thus the question of which is "correct" is not a linguistic question, but rather a sociological question. In cases such as these, we aren't deciding which is more useful to speakers (especially because defining double negation in purely logical terms would make it exactly identical to a lack of negation and therefore useless), but rather which groups of speakers we want to be considered "better" and "worse" than others. We decided, as a society, that the way the "lower class" spoke was "wrong" because those in power generally want their own dialect to be considered the "right" one.

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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby acousticcarnival » Thu Aug 14, 2008 3:52 pm UTC

Double Negatives have no purpose other than to emphasize the point of the sentence and, arguably to add stylistic "charm" (if by that you mean the drone of ignorance).

Therefore, they are like swear words.

Great. I'm now officially offended by double negatives.

And I ain't no mother fucking pompous ass either.
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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Aug 14, 2008 4:22 pm UTC

I'd say that the vast majority of any language's vocabulary exists primarily to emphasize and add stylistic elements to discourse.

If you're against using words for emphasis, I hope you never use words like "extremely" or "very", either. They serve only to strengthen the adverb or adjective they precede.
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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby acousticcarnival » Thu Aug 14, 2008 4:44 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:I'd say that the vast majority of any language's vocabulary exists primarily to emphasize and add stylistic elements to discourse.

If you're against using words for emphasis, I hope you never use words like "extremely" or "very", either. They serve only to strengthen the adverb or adjective they precede.


Adverbs make me want to punch my computer screen very *ouch* hard.
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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby goofy » Thu Aug 14, 2008 6:10 pm UTC

acousticcarnival wrote:arguably ... officially


acousticcarnival wrote:Adverbs make me want to punch my computer screen very *ouch* hard.


I've encountered adverb hatred before, and I just find it weird. Someone actually complained to JK Rowling that her adverbs were "unnecessary".

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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby ZLVT » Fri Aug 15, 2008 7:33 am UTC

What...the fuck? Seriously, adverbs are necesary, if you pointedly cut down on them, your stories would be as boring as if you had cut down on nouns or verbs. Unless you're averaging two or more adverbs per verb, you should be fine.
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Quixotess
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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby Quixotess » Fri Aug 15, 2008 7:38 am UTC

Actually, JK Rowling had a serious adverb problem. If you go through the books, and look at all the dialogue, you will find almost no instances of "he said" or "she said." It's always "he sneered" or "she said nervously" or something. She cannot leave that said to itself. This is a pet peeve of a lot of authors and is considered by some to be poor writing, from the principle that dialogue should mostly speak for itself. It gets really grating after a while.
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Re: A small topic dedicated to Double Negatives

Postby ZLVT » Fri Aug 15, 2008 8:09 am UTC

Oh, we were taught in shcool to write that way, try to vary it as much as possible.
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