Archive for Misnegation

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/, "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

      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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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.


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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