Not sacrificing anything to prevent anything…not

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From a Livescience.com article (about a police chief who recommends keystroke-logging your kids to obtain their passwords so you can find out where they go online) comes this disastrous tangle of a sentence, which will take hours of police time to clear up:

"When it comes down to safety and welfare of your child, I don't think any parent would sacrifice anything to make sure nothing happens to their children," said Batelli, the father of a teenage daughter.

Look up overnegation and misnegation on Language Log to read about the theoretical background to Battelli's stumble here. What he really meant was that he doesn't think any parent would sacrifice anything to make sure nothing doesn't happen… No, wait a minute… he means no parent wouldn't sacrifice anything to make sure nothing doesn't happen… No, that's still not right: it's that no parent wouldn't not sacrifice anything in order not to make sure that nothing doesn't not happen…

Help! Get me out of here! I'm a grammarian!

[Hat tip to David Udin. Comments are off in order to protect children from getting into trouble commenting on the Internet. And to protect you from having your mom and dad get hold of your commenting pseudonym. But you can always write to mail2languagelog@gmail.com if you want.]



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