View Full Version : Double Negative: Now and Then

01-20-2000, 01:51 PM
I'd guess the "double negative as positive" occured in the 19th century, since that was the golden age of language pedantry (when they decided you couldn't split an infinitive or end a sentence with a preposition).

It's also obviously false. "No, never" does not mean "yes" and never did. And no one would ever interpret "I don't have no money" as a claim to riches. Language isn't math.

The "two negatives make a positive" was just a rationalization for an arbitrary rule. Better to just say it's an arbitrary rule and be done with it.

"East is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does." -- Marx

Read "Sundials" in the new issue of Aboriginal Science Fiction. www.sff.net/people/rothman (http://www.sff.net/people/rothman)

Elmer J. Fudd
01-20-2000, 02:01 PM
We don't take kindly to no pedantry 'round these parts, no how!

Elmer J. Fudd,
I own a mansion and a yacht.

Patty O'Furniture
01-20-2000, 03:24 PM
I also think that the "two negatives makes a positive" rule was brought about by those who wished to have a big grammer stick to beat people up with.

Johnny Angel
01-20-2000, 03:26 PM
I think our modern language wonks are asleep at the wheel. How did "nu-kyu-ler" become an acceptable pronunciation and yet we still cannot accept that a double negative is a strong negative?

The use of the double negative as a strong negative is semantically regular -- it follows rules, and everbody knows when they hear it that it's not meant to be read as a positive.

Let's try a little test. See if you can tell me which of the following is a strong negative, and which is a positive:

1) "He ain't no ordinary Joe."
2) "He was not unhappy."
3) "Neither did she not care."
4) "Don't give me no lip."

01-20-2000, 11:40 PM
All the examples you show of a double negative being a stronger negative are poor grammar. If you're going to discount the rules of grammar, you can do anything you want.

There's formal language, and informal language; written and verbal forms. Plus slang, and colloquialisms, and geographic differences. You say potato, I say french fry.

01-21-2000, 12:07 AM
It's been drilled into our heads that a double negative makes a positive. Yet, in Shakespeare's day (as reflected in his work) a double negative simply intensified the point. (In other words, it was really, really bad!)

So, WHEN did this idea of a double neagtive being interpreted as a positive come from? (I really doubt it was algebraic theory.)

A no-no is a YES!