"Not with(out) at least superficial plausibility"

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Undernegation of the week, from a reader down under — Jack Waterford, "AFP bloodhounds still just sniffing about", The Canberra Times 3/31/2018:

The AFP raids were at the behest of the Registered Organisations Commission, which claims to have feared that the AWU might be in the process of destroying documents relevant to a civil investigation. The AWU claims, not with at least superficial plausibility, that the raids were politically motivated and for improper purposes.


AFP = Australian Federal Police
AWU = Australian Workers Union
Registered Organisations Commission: a body established by the current right-wing government to oversee "registered organisations" including unions, and which some suspect of have an anti-union agenda

More examples of misnegation than you could possibly want: "No post too obscure to escape notice".

The obligatory screenshot:



  1. Theophylact said,

    April 1, 2018 @ 10:16 am

    Undernegated, or overnegated? "… claims, with at least superficial plausibility, …" would be fine.

  2. TIC said,

    April 2, 2018 @ 8:16 am

    In context, it does seem that the writer meant, "with (some degree of) plausibility"… But it's not impossible that he meant, "with little or no plausibility"… If so, perhaps he didn't want to go so far as to say, "not with any plausibility" but instead wanted to suggest, "not with obvious plausibility"… Or, a bit further qualified, "not with plainly obvious plausibility"… From there, it's not too far to get to, "not with at least superficial plausibility"… That's a bit of a stretch, admittedly, but I'm a firm believer in tolerant and supportive reading!…

  3. JAck Waterford said,

    April 4, 2018 @ 9:24 pm

    EVeryone is quite right in their comments. It was a simple illiteracy of mine. I meant, of course, "not without a superficial plausibility", but, as you all perceived, missed the "out" in "without"' thus inverting the meaning, if meaning was left. At first, later, i assumed that i had beenmangled by a subeditor, but a check of the copy I had submitted shows that the fault was all my own.
    I have been addicted to somewhat ambiguous negative statements all my life, but i must confess that my favourite for it is Private Eye, with its "not a million miles from" and ("no relation") style phrases, which, mostly, mean the exact opposite of what is actually written. WIth me it is just understatement. If I write "not without a superficial plausibility" I simply mean obvious, apparent, or plainly.

  4. Graeme said,

    April 5, 2018 @ 3:51 am

    Having read Jack's columns and knowing that paper for many years I gleaned his intent without skipping a beat.

  5. TIC said,

    April 5, 2018 @ 6:11 am

    It's very kind of you to so graciously explain and accept full responsibility for this minor mis-phrasing, Jack… Thanks so much… And keep up the great work!…

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