Thursday, 13 October 2011


From my oldest brother's Facebook update - a clever use of language...

A linguistics professor was lecturing to her class one day.

"In English," she said, "A double negative forms a positive. In some languages, though, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative. However, there is no language wherein a double positive can form a negative."

A voice from the back of the room piped up, "Yeah, right."


  1. Although double negatives (in English) always sound sloppy to me, it was not always the case that they equalled a positive. Up to the early twentieth century a second negative COULD be used, though not always, as an 'intensifier' to the first-mentioned negative word, which is the way we often encounter it now, especially in colloquial English. It can be found used in this way in Dickens, Hardy, Thackeray and, I'm sure, going back as far as Sh.... (you know who) But please don't ask me to quote an example as I'll have to spend too much time in searching one out. However, having said that, it still sounds 'wrong' to me, and leaves one with a sense of ambiguity which was almost certainly not the speaker's/writer's intention.