February 18, 2016

How negative can you get?

Looking for "real-world examples with five or more negations in a dozen words, e.g. 'Not that I don't doubt that his reputation isn't undeserved.'"

32 comments:

John Christopher said...

I knew that most of the mentions would be related to sports. Google "Bill Simmons" and "triple negative" and it's a running shtick he had to call out examples.

EDH said...

How about when people respond essentially with the following tic:

"No, I agree..."

And not to concur with some previous negative assertion.

Especially on talking head shows. Is it just that people want to disagree?

http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/106158/yeah-no-i-agree-meaning

Quaestor said...

I'm still trying to decode the example. An odd number of negatives is still a negative, but what's being negated? The speakers opinion or the subject's reputation?

rhhardin said...

I hesitate to say that I don't disagree with you.

- Bob and Ray

rhhardin said...

Negatives don't necessarily cancel. They can reenforce. Wittgenstein goes into it somewhere, probably in the philosophy of mathematics.

rhhardin said...

There's a thing called a non-positive context, where words like "any" can appear.

It includes questions and negatives.

rhhardin said...

non-assertive

Quaestor said...

This kind of nested negation was a fashionable style in Victorian times -- a means to disguise banality under a cloak of syntactic complexity. Here's a famous example from the Jack the Ripper murder case. In an alleyway not far from one of Jack's five victims a police officer discovered this written on a wall in chalk, "The Juwes are the men who will not be blamed for nothing." The writer knew how to use the style though he did not know how to spell Jews.

Dennis Braswell said...

I don’t deny denying I didn’t not deny denying my denial. Real in my thoughts.

Quaestor said...

A Bob & Ray archive. Altogether not less uninteresting than the subject of nested negatives.

traditionalguy said...

No, you are not incorrect that you are not wrong.

Thank you, Your Honor.

Unknown said...

This sounds like a case for Dave Barry's "Mr. Language Person". Unfortunately, I don't remember one on negatives, so I'll just post this supposed actual quote for us to admire:

Q. Speaking of true quotations, please repeat the statement that Sonda Ward of Nashville swears she heard made by a man expressing concern to a woman who had been unable to get a ride to a church function.

A. He said: "Estelle, if I'd a knowed you'd a want to went, I'd a seed you'd a got to get to go."

Q. What tense is that, grammatically?

A. That is your pluperfect consumptive.

tim in vermont said...

Not for nothing, and the excess of negatives notwithstanding, that isn't completely unclear.

Rusty said...

We're not in any danger of this being, you know, interesting?

Char Char Binks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Char Char Binks said...

None of that don't make me no never mind.

JPS said...

More difficult than looking for such examples: Finding one where it was actually necessary, or materially improved the sentence, to do so.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

I never felt uncomfortable with litotes.

Sean Gleeson said...

An example I found, by James Lileks: "I'd be lying if I didn't say this interesting look wouldn't be unwelcome if it came back."

Sean Gleeson said...

From Douglas Adams, Life, the Universe, and Everything, Chapter XXXI...

"That young girl," he added unexpectedly, "is one of the least benightedly unintelligent organic life forms it has been my profound lack of pleasure not to be able to avoid meeting."

DrSquid said...

I couldnt possibly fail to disagree with you less

Wen said...

I wouldn't not say no to this if it wasn't less clear.

Fernandinande said...

"No no no no no no no no no
No no no no no no no no
No no no no no no no no
No no no no no

Nobody can do
The shing-a-ling
Like I do

No no no no no no no no no
No no no no no no no no
No no no no no no no no
No no no no no"

George Ferko said...

Nobody but Me by the Human Beinz

rhhardin said...

...and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.

Yes means no.

Ambrose said...

"A double negative equals a positive, but a double positive does not equal a negative."
"Yeah, right..."

My name goes here. said...

Negative can refer to the opposite, the negation, the reverse, undesirable, or no; have I failed in your request?

Alternatively,

Under the sign of Pieces, Reed Richards and Heisenberg were trying to process their undeveloped film containing a photograph of a Hillary Clinton's image by bathing it in electrons captured from the decay of uru from their absolute zero entropy box.

jaed said...

Minus negative two times negative five minus negative nine equals negative one.

mikee said...

One Christmas I asked my son for an indefinite self referential statement.

On Christmas morning I asked him if he got me what I wanted and he replied, "I'm not sure if this will do."

Good kid, that boy.

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Robt C said...

I was arguing with a guy once who stumped me with "I don't know if that's not true."

bozonomous said...



hardest to read negativity dense language;


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