Triplex negatio ferblondiat

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Julian Hook sent in this quote and link, from "Chris Christie mocks ‘disaster’ Donald Trump at upstate biz conference", NY Post 9/23/2022:

“There is a sector of our party, which cannot find themselves genetically unable to not defend Donald Trump,” Christie said at another point in his hour-long address while criticizing fellow Republicans for backing the ex-president’s evidence-free claims of mass voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

Like Julian, I think that there's one too many (or one too few) negatives in that quote — perhaps a reader will have the time and patience to logic it out for us.

And like Julian, I wonder whether the NY Post can be trusted to get the quote right. For some background, see e.g. "Approximate quotations", 8/11/2012, or "Journalistic quotation accuracy", 8/21/2013. I searched for a recording of Christie's full speech (or at least the multiple-negative part), but haven't found one yet. If it turns up, please let me know.

The fake-Latin title is adapted from "Multiplex negatio ferblondiat", 7/14/2007, which traces its various versions to Larry Horn's 1991 CLS paper "Duplex negatio affirmat…? The economy of double negation".


The obligatory screenshot:


  1. Thomas Lee Hutcheson said,

    September 25, 2022 @ 7:42 am

    "which finds itself genetically unable not to defend"

    [(myl) Because "Crazies win", 5/13/2008.]

  2. Peter Taylor said,

    September 25, 2022 @ 10:49 am

    If we interpret "cannot find themselves X" as "are not X", these people are not "genetically unable to not defend Donald Trump". Taken literally, this is certainly true. Taking "genetically" as a non-literal intensifier, we reduce to "not unable to not defend", so "able to not defend", which does seem to be the opposite of the intended meaning.

  3. Andrew Usher said,

    September 25, 2022 @ 12:25 pm

    Simply delete 'cannot', which may have been a mental false start anyway, and it becomes exactly as intended. Just as notable for me was the use of 'which' in reference to persons, which makes you wonder about the accuracy of the quotation as well.

    k_over_hbarc at

  4. martin schwartz said,

    September 25, 2022 @ 1:14 pm

    What is "ferblondiat"? Yiddish has farblondžen 'to get lost, go the wrong way' from Polish with Germanic preverb. Ferblondiat sounds like old Mad magazine.
    Martin Schwartz

  5. Barbara Phillips Long said,

    September 25, 2022 @ 7:04 pm

    What surprised me is that the Post was very coy about the conference sponsorship and location. Google shows that this was the Business Council of New York State meeting at the Sagamore on Lake George:

    Several searches have not revealed any other coverage of this event, unfortunately.

  6. John Swindle said,

    September 25, 2022 @ 11:51 pm

    @martin schwartz: Yep. For Late Latin "ferblondiare" see

  7. Ed Rorie said,

    September 26, 2022 @ 6:03 am

    They are unable to resist defending Trump.

  8. Robert Coren said,

    September 26, 2022 @ 9:45 am

    @Ed Rorie: That's pretty clearly the intended meaning, but I agree with others that that's not what it actually says. Probably.

  9. Ed Rorie said,

    September 26, 2022 @ 3:57 pm

    @Robert Coren: Yes, if they get rid of “cannot” it will say what they meant to say, but still awkwardly. And of course, it’s best to leave heritability out of it. I suspect that the scientific jury is still out on the existence of a MAGA gene.

  10. Terry Hunt said,

    September 27, 2022 @ 11:03 am

    @ martin schwartz – My understanding of Yiddish "ferblondiat" (probably learned from reading Leo Rosten's The Joys of Yiddish a long time ago), is that it means not merely lost, but completely and utterly lost.

  11. Michael Lyon said,

    September 28, 2022 @ 4:58 am

    By removing three negatives and reversing one verb, the written sense would seem to be that there is a sector of the party that: "is" "genetically able" "to attack" Donald Trump. That seems to be the speaker's position also, so I wonder if the ambiguity relates to whether, "while criticising…" is intended to include the "sector" as doing the criticising, or as the object of the criticism. It could be read either way, but the intended sense sounds like the former, from the rhetorical use of [not being] "genetically unable…".

  12. Ed M said,

    September 28, 2022 @ 6:01 am

    Maybe "stop themselves" rather than "find themselves" makes sense.

    "who cannot stop themselves because they are genetically unable to not defend Donald Trump"

  13. J.W. Brewer said,

    September 28, 2022 @ 11:03 am

    Parallel example recently seen in the wild (from an online discussion of the meaning of Beatles lyrics): "I never didn't hear it as anything other than" [the most literal/straightforward interpretation]. Of course, I didn't even notice the misnegation the first time I read it, since my clever monkey brain just figured out what was intended rather than wasting time trying to parse what was actually typed.

  14. Philip Taylor said,

    September 28, 2022 @ 2:40 pm

    Your "clever monkey brain" is clearly infinitely more powerful than mine, since my central processor just went into an infinite loop attempting to comprehend 'I never didn't hear it as anything other than'.

  15. M said,

    September 29, 2022 @ 1:53 am

    The only reliable guide, so far, to the word:

    Gold, David L. 1984. "Words of Jewish Origin in English Dictionaries: The Case of farblondzhet." American Speech: A Quarterly of Linguistic Usage. Vol. 59. No. 3.

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