Freudian misnegation of the year

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Leonardo Boiko writes "It's still mid-February, but I feel like this is a strong contender nonetheless".

The source: Joshua Rhett Miller, "Pastor says nothing weird was going on with bound naked man in car", New York Post 2/13/2018.

The key phrase: "I won't deny that he began to take his clothes off and propositioned me, but I will deny, on a stack of Bibles with God as my witness, that I did nothing".

The context:

A Pennsylvania pastor insists he was merely counseling a naked man whom cops found bound with nylon rope in a parked car on a residential street, saying, "I have nothing to hide."

George Nelson Gregory, 61, was sitting in the back seat of a car parked outside a house in Homestead when cops — responding to a call about a suspicious vehicle — spotted a naked man bound with nylon rope in the front seat around 11:30 p.m. Friday […]

Gregory, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, still disputed what cops said about the bizarre ordeal, telling a KDKA reporter he has "nothing to hide."

"I did nothing wrong," Gregory told the station, adding that he and the man were approached by police because the officer thought somebody in the car was unconscious.

"I was counseling a young man with a drug problem," Gregory told the station. "It did turn strange, but it wasn't my doing, OK? And I was adamant that I'm participating in that way. And so that's when the police pulled up, and they assume things, but I'm standing by my story. It's not true."

Gregory said he and his wife have been trying to help the man for years.

"I won't deny that he began to take his clothes off and propositioned me, but I will deny, on a stack of Bibles with God as my witness, that I did nothing," Gregory told KDKA.



13 Comments

  1. Pflaumbaum said,

    February 15, 2018 @ 1:31 pm

    If a misnegation keeps you out of hell can it still be called an error?

  2. David L said,

    February 15, 2018 @ 1:36 pm

    The man took his clothes off? OK
    Then he propositioned the pastor? Well, things happen.
    But then he tied himself up with nylon rope? That does seem a little odd.

  3. Roscoe said,

    February 15, 2018 @ 3:13 pm

    Sounds a bit like the exterminator's line in a recent "Broad City" episode:

    "I can't guarantee that I can get them out. However, I can guarantee that I can't."

  4. David Morris said,

    February 15, 2018 @ 4:44 pm

    I'm trying to think of a scenario in which "I will deny that I did nothing" is apposite. Maybe a employee has harassed a colleague, and the colleague has accused a manager of aiding and abetting by saying or doing nothing to warn or discipline the employee.

  5. Jen in Edinburgh said,

    February 15, 2018 @ 5:09 pm

    Well, whenever you should have been doing something – accusations of slacking off during tidying, etc!

  6. J.W. Brewer said,

    February 15, 2018 @ 8:42 pm

    "I didn't do _nothing_, I did X" is perfectly idiomatic and *probably* comprehensible even for speakers with negative concord who would parse free-standing "I didn't do nothing" differently. But rephrasing that first sort of "I didn't do nothing" as "I deny that I did nothing" seems strongly unidiomatic to my hear. If you're sliding into a lawyerese register where you're going to be explicitly denying allegations maybe you would go straight to "I deny that I failed to take action" (or "failed to respond to the situation" or what have you.)

  7. J.W. Brewer said,

    February 15, 2018 @ 8:56 pm

    If you click through from the NYPost site to the KDKA site there's a video clip of the story as it ran on the local tv news that includes excerpts from what was clearly a longer interview with the Rev'd Mr. Gregory. The most interesting sentence in the full article is not included in the clip, but you do hear Gregory clearly saying (just after 1:30 in the clip) "I was adamant that I'm not participating in that way" rather than (as reported in the Post's version of the story) "I was adamant that I'm participating in that way." So maybe we should be open to the possibility that some of the other misnegations also did not actually come out of Gregory's mouth.

  8. C. Munk said,

    February 16, 2018 @ 7:18 am

    I think the confusing part of the sentence is really the phrase "deny on a stack of bibles". A phrase which would idiomatically use the verb "swear" or perhaps even "take an oath".

    Are there any other instances of "deny" taking the place of "swear" in idioms? That could cause some pretty good misnegations: "I deny on my mother's grave that I am innocent" or "I deny blind that I resisted temptation".

  9. Steve said,

    February 16, 2018 @ 8:56 am

    I didn't do nuttin! I'm a victim of soicumstance!

  10. Ellen Kozisek said,

    February 16, 2018 @ 9:28 am

    Responding to C. Monk's comments, seems to me, if it was indeed a misnegation by the speaker, that the combination of that "swear/deny on a stake of Bibles" with another phrase ("with God as my witness") coming before the we get to the concluding part, could easily lead to misnegation. Though I can also see it being an error in transcription.

  11. Ellen Kozisek said,

    February 16, 2018 @ 9:29 am

    Oops… Sorry, C. Munk, not Monk.

  12. mikegrubb said,

    February 16, 2018 @ 9:35 am

    @ C. Munk,
    I'm not sure of the pastor's denomination, but there are some that prohibit the swearing of oaths (on the basis that everything one says should be true). If Mr. Gregory is a pastor in such a denomination, he'd avoid formulations involving "swear" or "take an oath." On the other hand, if his denomination doesn't have such a prohibition, then my point is moot.

  13. Sam Buggeln said,

    February 18, 2018 @ 2:51 pm

    So many Freudian moments!

    "I'm standing by my story. It's not true."

    "It did turn strange, but it wasn't my doing, OK? And I was adamant that I'm participating in that way."

    He doesn't say much that he doesn't seem to want to contradict a second later…

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