I don’t think the OP is far-off in disliking this practice but since it is becoming decreasingly unacceptable, there is insufficient resistance to fail to prevent the lack of displacement of the uncomplicated form which has no shortage of missing negatives, to its clearly not insufficient quality of liberated slavery from incomprehensibility.
I don’t use no double negatives myself can plausibly mean that I use double negatives.
Really though concepts of grammar cannot be broken down as if governed by mathematical principles. If that’s the case then:
I don’t never use no triple negatives = I never use triple negatives.
And no, I don’t never not use quadruple negatives might then indicate that I do (when the need arises) make use of quad negatives.
I hope this helps.
You ain’t got nuthin’.
I disagree. I take “not uncommon” to be less common than “common”.
The double negative rule, the rule against ending sentences with propositions, and other awkward rules, are not organic parts of English. Rather, they were imposed beginning around the 17th century out of a misguided attempt to create a “proper” grammar. Other languages use double negatives as emphasis, rather than as some weird canceling thing. Take Spanish, for instance:
A more literal translation would be, “He didn’t say nothing to nobody.”
This goes double for the rule against splitting infinitives, imposed on English because it is impossible in Latin.
Indeed. Shakespeare never had a problem with using double negatives in his works.
That’s how I parse it as well. Litotes can also be used for intentional understatement to emphasis the opposite, not just some sort of condition in between two extremes (as in the “common” and “not uncommon” example.) For example, “that’s no small feat” does not mean it’s a feat, but not quite a “big feat.” It is a huge feat, but it’s a deliberate understatement through a common figure of speech.
And this is actually where have a question. Are all constructions like this litotes, or only the ones that use understatement in the negative as emphasis (rather than using the negative to specify a third category in between two extremes.) I’ve always thought litotes was rhetorical understatement, but it may cover all the cases above.
Here’s a perfect illustration:
“Sarah Jessica Parker is not unattractive.”
It conveys the point perfectly.
Even in the African rain example there are good occasions to use it. Say you have been staying in a part of a Africa where it has rained every day for the last month. You friend arrives and asks if the weather is always as lousy as it is that day.
I would say, “It is not uncommon for it to rain in Africa,” but then again I am very sarcastic.
Depending on context, I can read the “It’s not uncommon for it to rain in Africa” to be a gentle way of correcting someone. “It does too rain in Africa!” can be a bit harsh.
“It’s not uncommon…” can also draw attention to the assumptions being made (e.g. that it is uncommon for it to rain in Africa).
I think judicious use of double negatives provides a richer and subtler texture of meaning to our language.
I was watching the original production of 'The Pallisers", a PBS adaptation of Anthony Trollope’s epic novel about english almost-royalty set back in the early 1900s. Many of the characters used double negatives and the word ‘ain’t’ as if it weere the cool trendy thing to do. I found this most interesting since I thought that this use of grammar would have been considered way bad for people in the social class that the film presented.
Was this a way to emulate Americans, or some other phenomenon?
I think we may just have to learn to live with your irritation. The construction you’re describing is quite often useful. It’s not pretentious - it’s precise.
I agree that nuanced statements are not required when discussing black and white situations, but black and white situations are as rare as rocking horse shit in the real world, so it’s moot.
“Ain’t” was a perfectly legit contraction of “I …am not”, but rural folks in America started using it for " He… is not" “isn’t” and “we… are not”/“aren’t”. So various busybodies started a campaign against it.
Same with double-negatives, much as sturmhauke put it, but it didn’t catch on as a “no-no” until around the 20th century, IIRC.
This is a perfect example. Surely we can all agree that there are people who are neither attractive nor unattractive. Replacing “not unattractive” with “attractive” changes the meaning of the sentence.
So that’s one legitimate use of a double negative. Another is to deny a negative statement. If I said “It’s unreasonable for you to start a pit thread on this silly topic,” and you wished to disagree with me, the most straightforward way to do so would be to say “No, it’s not unreasonable.” To my ear, at least, saying “No it’s reasonable” in that case seems less direct, since rather than directly contradicting me you’re instead asserting the opposite.
The OP should desist from attacking the use of double negatives that are correct and in accord with the speaker’s meaning, and focus on that silly superfluous negation in phrases like “miss not having you around” or “don’t let something keep you from not doing a thing”.
Not that it can’t be apropos of the thread, but
Is you is or is you ain’t my baby?
The way you’re actin’ lately makes me doubt
Yous is still my baby-baby
Seems my flame in your heart’s done gone out
are lyrics for the ages.