Archive for Misnegation

Lots of nots

Ron Irving sent in this sentence from Will Bunch's latest Philadelphia Inquirer column ("Proud Boys’ only ‘idea’ is violence. Penn State is wrong to give its leader a platform", 10/13/2022):

What’s more, it’s hard not to think that McInnes and his allies didn’t choose both their location — State College, on a campus surrounded by the counties that went so heavily for Trump in the last two elections — and the timing (15 days ahead of two of the nation’s most-watched midterm elections) with the idea not of winning converts through their “humor,” but with the hope of fomenting even more violence.

Ron's comment: "So Will is saying 'it’s easy to think that McInnes didn’t choose the location and timing with the hope of fomenting even more violence'? One too many negations, I’d say."

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Triplex negatio ferblondiat

Julian Hook sent in this quote and link, from "Chris Christie mocks ‘disaster’ Donald Trump at upstate biz conference", NY Post 9/23/2022:

“There is a sector of our party, which cannot find themselves genetically unable to not defend Donald Trump,” Christie said at another point in his hour-long address while criticizing fellow Republicans for backing the ex-president’s evidence-free claims of mass voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

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Another misnegation/miscomparison

From Breffni O'Rourke,  another example of the conceptual tangle created by the interaction of scalar comparison and (implicit) negation:

Just another one of these. There's no outright negation, but it seems related – the implied negative of "only" interacting with the scalar comparison "more slowly". The arithmetic comes out with the wrong sign in any case:

"The Tories came back into power in 2010. Over the course of this unbroken period of rule, typical household incomes in Britain have risen more slowly than those in only two other western European countries: Greece and Cyprus."

He means either "…risen more slowly than those in all but two other…" or "risen faster than those in only two other…".

The quotation is from Fintan O'Toole, "Liz Truss will make Johnson seem a political genius, May a mistress of empathy, Cameron a beacon of sincerity", The Irish Times 9/5/2022.

And as usual, it's really hard for our poor monkey brains to process cases like this — I agree with Breffni about this one, but no doubt some commenters will not.

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Negative ambiguity

This sounds like it should be a technical term in one discipline or another.  I did a Google search for "negative ambiguity" and received 42,800 hits, a negligible number of them false because of punctuation issues.  They occur in contexts that fall under psychology, economics, sociology, language and linguistics (grammar, syntax, scope, attachment, translation, etc.), sexuality, business and administration (leadership), investment, finance, tourism, education, biology, military science, politics, race studies (identity), etc.

One of the most prolific sources for the use of "negative ambiguity" is in this low key but still extraordinary paper by WANG Bo1, XIE Junwei1, ZHANG Jing2, and SUN Bosen3   in Journal of Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics ›› 2020, Vol. 46 ›› Issue (1): 122-132. doi: 10.13700/j.bh.1001-5965.2019.0133, "Negative ambiguity function characteristics simulation of FDA", where it occurs frequently. 

1. Air and Missile Defense College, Air Force Engineering University, Xi'an 710051, China
2. Shaanxi College of Communication Technology, Xi'an 710018, China
3. School of Information, Xi'an University of Finance and Economics, Xi'an 710100, China

    • Received: 2019-03-27 Published:2020-01-21
    • Supported
      by:

      National Natural Science Foundation of China (61503408)

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Double positives, part 2

The following tweet is from four years ago, but it's still relevant today.  Moreover, in reading through the replies to this tweet, I see interesting references to African American Vernacular English (AAVE) and remarkable resonances to Russian, including Vladimir Putin's "meddling".

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Impossible to underestimate tha crazy?

From Will Bunch, "In wagering on Doug Mastriano, Josh Shapiro plays a dangerous game for Pa.", Philadelphia Inquirer 5/8/2022:

The Democrats should have learned their lesson in 2016. In this millennium, it’s impossible to underestimate the power of “tha crazy” coming out of a Republican Party base in which not only a majority of voters now believe 2020′s Big Lie that the last election was somehow stolen from Trump, but in which an alarming number are waiting for John F. Kennedy Jr. — last seen when he died in a 1999 plane crash — to expose a baby-eating cabal of Democratic pols and Hollywood stars and maybe arrest Anthony Fauci for treason.

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Nonnegation

In reading texts from the earliest times of Chinese writing up to the present, and at all social levels and linguistic registers, I have noticed a curious phenomenon.  Namely, often an overtly negative particle or term will have no privative or prohibitive force, but is simply there for rhythmic, clitic, or rhetorical function.

Naturally, since negation is normally marked and unmistakable in its purpose, when its unaffirmative function is lost / absent / missing, interpreting the intended meaning of such a statement or utterance can be challenging.

I was prompted to contemplate this curious phenomenon when I was writing a message to my brother in Chinese, and realized that "guǎn tā 管它" and "béng guǎn tā 甭管它" mean the same thing: — "forget about it; leave it alone; don't worry about it"! — with or without the negative word being overtly present.

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"Lawyers for Trump had not provided no basis…"

Sometimes the reason for too many (or too few) negations is an editing slip, and I'm guessing that this is an example. Fadel Allassan, "Appeals court denies Trump bid to shield records from Jan. 6 panel", Axios 12/9/2021:

In a 3-0 decision, Judge Patricia Ann Millett wrote that lawyers for Trump had not "provided no basis for this court to override President Biden's judgment" that the documents, held by the National Archives, should not be protected by executive privilege.

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"Anybody that doesn't think…"

This was posted yesterday evening by Liz Harrington, who regularly posts Donald Trump's "statements" on Twitter:


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Unmatched by no other philosopher

From the Wikipedia article on Martin Foss (1889–1968), the German-born American philosopher, professor, and scholar:

Foss provides a fascinating and important theory for how change happens in life—a theory that has been unmatched by no other philosopher.

(source)

Possible solutions:

–> matched by no other philosopher

OR

–> unmatched by any other philosopher

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Vaccination misnegation

From this blog post:

ICU beds are filled to capacity with unvaccinated COVID patients who are not vaccinated because they didn’t have access to immunization. They chose to be unvaccinated.

A.L., who sent in the link, observes that "this seems like a particularly striking example, because the misnegated phrase ('not vaccinated because they didn’t have access to immunization' instead of 'not unvaccinated because they didn’t have access to immunization') is the focus of an explicit contrast with one that's appropriately negated."

As often in cases where the problem is extra or missing characters, rather than a whole-word substitution, it's hard to tell whether this is a slip of the fingers or a slip of the brain. Or maybe a bit of both.

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Athletic misnegation

"Can the Angels keep Shohei Ohtani? A payroll crisis looms in Los Angeles", 8/12/2021:

Everything Shohei Ohtani has accomplished this summer is unprecedented: the high-end pitching and high-impact hitting, the takeover of the two days of All-Star events, the marketability. With a season résumé that looks like none other, he'll win the American League's Most Valuable Player Award, having fully stretched the imagination of the Los Angeles Angels' staff — and managers' and executives' with other teams, for that matter — about his future capabilities. […]

He could eventually make the same transition that Babe Ruth made, from a two-way player to a full-time outfielder. "That would be tempting," said one AL manager, grinning at the notion of Ohtani devoting all of his acumen and athleticism to run production. "Can you imagine what he could do?" If Ohtani had 700 plate appearances at his 2021 home run rate, he'd hit 60 homers — and it seems very possible he would have more efficiency as a hitter if that were his only responsibility. He's proved to everyone this year: You cannot underestimate Shohei Ohtani. [emphasis added]

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Ambiguous triple negative

This morning, I read the following sentence on a large list to which I belong:

"Apparently no one that hasn't been vaccinated doesn't want to live.

I read it over several times and thought about it for quite a while, but am still not sure that I understand what the author of the sentence really meant.  Can anyone state the intent of the sentence more clearly and unambiguously?

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