Archive for Misnegation

"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.


Possible solutions:

–> matched by no other philosopher


–> 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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Me either / neither

Talking about a certain movie, I just wrote this on a list serve:

"I wouldn't watch a single minute of it".

Another member of the list commented, "Me either".

If I were he, I would have said, "Me neither".

Somehow, though, I feel that we're both correct.  In any event, I've heard it said both ways.

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Vaccines that do a good job of not preventing disease and death

"We Need To Get Real About How the Pandemic Will End:  Even more transmissible new variants means that more people will get infected or vaccinated, and that's how it will all end".  By Zeynep, Insight (5/28/21):

[A]s far as I can tell from vast amounts of trial and real life evidence, every single vaccine out there does a very very good job against preventing severe disease and death.

If what Zeynep says about "every single vaccine out there" is true, we are destined for some dire end times indeed.

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(Not?) Including myself

Jonah Markowitz, "Remote Work Is Here to Stay. Manhattan May Never Be the Same.", NYT 3/29/2021:

“I could find few people, including myself, who think we are going to go back to the way it was,” said Joseph J. Palermo, the firm’s chief operating officer.

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Election misnegation

Here's another example for our long list of cases where smart people are either losing track of multiple negations, or applying a high-status form of negative concord in English. This one is from Jeremy Peters, "In Restricting Early Voting, the Right Sees a New ‘Center of Gravity’", NYT 3/19/2021:

“We also took a look at the election results, and we don’t believe that it was stolen. But that doesn’t mean we don’t think there aren’t things that can be improved,” said Jason Snead, the executive director of the Honest Elections Project.

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Misnegation plus misaffirmation

From Annie Gottlieb:

This kind of mistake is becoming a pandemic!
This is a twofer!—misnegation AND the opposite of misnegation, whatever you call that—misaffirmation?

On the rare occasions that his team actually trusts him in front of a camera, the presumptive democratic nominee never ceases to disappoint with his ability to — for lack of a better term — keep his foot out of his mouth. 

If only!

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The difficulties of negation

Dmitry Ostrovsky reacted to a litotic sentence in Bari Weiss's resignation letter:

"None of this means that some of the most talented journalists in the world don’t still labor for this newspaper."

Dmitry's email:

This strikes me as very odd. It is not a simple "arithmetic" misnegation, if "none of this means that" and "don't" are dropped the sentence obviously would have a meaning intended by Ms. Weiss "[…] some of the most talented journalists in the world […] still labor for this newspaper", but as written it doesn't work. The trouble, it seems to me, is the word "some". If "None of this means that" (a straightforward negation) is removed, the sentence would have the structure "S don’t still labor for this newspaper", but almost anything is true about S when S = "some of the most talented journalists in the world" — S like beer and S hate soccer, S work late and S rise early, S read LL and S don't read even their own publication. And thus, no matter what is your statement about S, its negation is wrong.

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"Lack of unpreparedness"

From John Lawler:

My (non-linguist) partner heard someone say "I'm surprised at the lack of unpreparedness" on the radio this morning, and when we googled it to find out who was misnegating, we found the phrase everywhere, and not just recently, either.

John suggests a Google search . . .

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