It depends on what "do not" means

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Departing from Canadian stereotypes: "Toronto Mayor Rob Ford denies using crack cocaine", CBC News 5/24/2013

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There has been a serious accusation from the Toronto Star that I use crack cocaine. I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict.

As reader F.H. observes

"I do not use crack cocaine" is not the same as "I have never used crack cocaine" or "I didn't smoke crack cocaine on any video."

I have the impression that the mayor has been responsible for a larger sample of denials than your average Canadian politician, but I may be guilty of stereotyping our neighbors to the north.

The audio clip comes from this CBC video, 43 seconds into the video.

Update — I neglected to link to a similar recent denial from Amanda Bynes, who is not yet the mayor of anything.

Update #2 — Some relevant background is here. Apparently Canadians are more interesting than many Americans think.


  1. Victor Mair said,

    May 25, 2013 @ 7:43 am

    This reminds me of the denial of an American politician who declared in 1998: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman." I guess it depends on what he meant by "did not" (and probably also by "sexual relations").

  2. Observation said,

    May 25, 2013 @ 8:31 am

    Thanks for the post; it's good to know that this kind of denials is also common elsewhere! In Hong Kong, it is so common that there is a common phrase for this kind of behaviour: yǔyán wěishù 語言偽術. It only arose in recent years, with nearly no real ghits before 2008. However, it has risen dramatically in popularity, especially after the CE election last year. Politicians like CY Leung and Paul Chan Mo Po 陳茂波 are constantly accused of it.

    I think it is much more common here than in the west because Chinese syntax and morphology allow for greater flexibility and thus more room for ambiguity. For example, after a tabloid caught him driving after drinking, he denied that he had crossed a double solid white line to overtake another vehicle. The Chinese was 'cut 雙白線爬頭' ('cut' being a loanword). Although there were no connectives between the two predicates, it seemed to imply that one action happened immediately after the other (similar to the line 沒有共產黨,沒有新中國 at According to the video, however, crossing the double white line and overtaking the other car were two separate actions. Thus it was claimed that he denied crossing the double white lines to overtake another vehicle without denying that he had performed the two actions separately.

    Another controversy was related to his use of the term 醉酒駕駛 (driving while drunk). He did not deny 酒後駕駛 (drinking before driving), but he denied 醉酒駕駛. As the police did not carry out a breathalyser test, there indeed was no evidence that he was drunk. However, to most people, the two are synonymous – the difference between drink-driving and drunk-driving appears to be regional in English.

  3. Joshua said,

    May 25, 2013 @ 1:07 pm

    The most comparable Bill Clintonian phrase would be "There is no improper relationship."

    LEHRER: The news of this day is that Kenneth Starr, independent counsel, is investigating allegations that you suborned perjury by encouraging a 24-year-old woman, former White House intern, to lie under oath in a civil deposition about her having had an affair with you. Mr. President, is that true?

    CLINTON: That is not true. That is not true. I did not ask anyone to tell anything other than the truth. There is no improper relationship. And I intend to cooperate with this inquiry. But that is not true.

    LEHRER: "No improper relationship" – define what you mean by that.

    CLINTON: Well, I think you know what it means. It means that there is not a sexual relationship, an improper sexual relationship, or any other kind of improper relationship.

    LEHRER: You had no sexual relationship with this young woman?

    CLINTON: There is not a sexual relationship; that is accurate.

    (Emphasis added.)

    Fortunately, I think that people have gotten more sophisticated about these kinds of word games that some politicians play.

  4. fiona hanington said,

    May 27, 2013 @ 12:19 pm

    Unfortunately, we (Canadians) have had all sorts of dubious public denials from mayors lately. (Denials of corruption by the ex-mayors of Montreal and Laval among them.)

    Rob Ford's is certainly the most salacious and surprising. It got the attention of a few late-night talk shows in the US (my favorite is Jon Stewart:

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