Archive for Misnegation

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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"Hard to understate the importance"

Peter Beinart, "Trump’s Break With China Has Deadly Consequences", The Atlantic 3/28/2020:

Now that COVID-19 is sweeping across the United States, cooperation between Washington and Beijing remains essential. “It’s hard to understate the importance of the U.S.-China relationship in getting through this,” Tom Inglesby, the director of the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told me.

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"There is no number too small"

On this morning's State of the Nation program, Jake Tapper asked Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez this question:

Negotiations are- are ongoing
on an economic stimulus package
chief White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow could be
as high as two trillion dollars. Y- you suggested
that's still not enough.
If you were writing this bill
how much would you spend
and where would the money go?

and she began her reply this way:

Well I think uh first and foremost
((It-)) There is almost no number too small.
I don't think a lot of people out there really understand
the systemic shock that is being experienced in the economy right now.

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1 day since big-font misnegation

A sign displayed at yesterday's congressional impeachment hearing:

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Freudian hypernegation

Eileen Sullivan, "Trump Publicly Urges China to Investigate the Bidens", NYT 10/3/2019:

Mr. Trump has defended his conversation with Mr. Zelensky as “perfect” even after a reconstructed transcript of the call was released that showed him seeking help from Ukraine in investigating the Bidens. And he doubled down on his request on Thursday.

“I would say that President Zelensky, if it were me, I would recommend that they start an investigation into the Bidens,” Mr. Trump said. “Because nobody has any doubt that they weren’t crooked.”

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Misnegation harvest

Readers have recently sent two  links to examples where writers seem to have lost control of piled-up negatives.

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Nothing I don't think anybody can do about it

By Dianne Gallagher, Catherine Shoichet and Madeline Holcombe, "680 undocumented workers arrested in record-setting immigration sweep on the first day of school", CNN 8/8/2019 [emphasis added]:

After immigration authorities rounded up hundreds of workers in a massive sweep at seven Mississippi food processing plants, friends and family members are desperately searching for answers.

A crowd waited outside a plant in Morton, Mississippi, on Thursday morning, hoping authorities would release their loved ones. Many had been by later in the afternoon.

Video footage from CNN affiliates and Facebook live showed children sobbing as they waited for word on what had happened to their parents. […]

Speaking to reporters outside a plant in Canton, Mississippi, Mayor William Truly Jr. said he was concerned about the impact the arrests would have on the local economy — and on the community.

"I recognize that ICE comes under the Department of Homeland Security, and this is an order of the United States. There's nothing I don't think anybody can do about it," he said. "But my main concern is now, what happens to the children?"

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Lack of inaction

From a recent article on the Vanity Fair site by Abigail Tracy ("'There's Blood on the Hands of Members of Congress': Frustrated Democrats Debate Strategy as Mitch McConnell Holds Gun Control in His Pocket," published Aug. 6):

Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who was elected weeks before the 2012 mass shooting in Newton, Connecticut, expressed dismay at the lack of inaction in Congress.

Obligatory screenshot:

It's our old friend, misnegation. Murphy was surely expressing dismay at the lack of action, or inaction, in Congress.

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Inside out

Brian Costa, "Rory McIlroy’s British Open Chances Collapse on the First Hole", WSJ 7/18/2019 [emphasis added]:

Rory McIlroy stepped into the first tee box at Royal Portrush on Thursday morning and waved to a roaring crowd. He knew it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience: his opening tee shot at the first British Open held in his native country in more than half a century. […]

This is the same course where, as a 16-year-old amateur in 2005, he shot a 61, which remains the course record. This is a tournament in which McIlroy has not failed to finish outside the top five since 2013 (he missed it with an injury in 2015). This is a player who, as measured by strokes gained—which compares a player’s score to the field average—has been the best on the PGA Tour this season.

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Another day, another misnegation

Thomas Friedman, "‘Trump’s Going to Get Re-elected, Isn’t He?’", NYT 7/16/2019 [emphasis added]:

I’m struck at how many people have come up to me recently and said, “Trump’s going to get re-elected, isn’t he?” And in each case, when I drilled down to ask why, I bumped into the Democratic presidential debates in June. I think a lot of Americans were shocked by some of the things they heard there. I was. […]

But I’m disturbed that so few of the Democratic candidates don’t also talk about growing the pie, let alone celebrating American entrepreneurs and risk-takers.

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"Avoid characterizing it as anything but racism"

Paul Farhi, "‘Racist’ tweets? News media grapple with how to label Trump’s latest attacks", Washington Post 7/15/2019:

When is it time to call a statement “racist,” and when is it time to let others characterize it that way?

News organizations wrestled with that question Sunday and Monday after President Trump tweeted a series of statements aimed at four members of Congress, all women of color. […]

Arizona State journalism professor Dan Gillmor said news organizations are guilty of “weasel wording” when they avoid characterizing the president’s tweets as anything but racism.

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Negative concord of the week

[h/t Neal Goldfarb]

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