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Overnegation: don't fail to miss it! Login/Join
 
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Liberman discusses it in more detail in the second comment. It could be seen as "rhetorically odd".
 
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Picture of Kalleh
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The funny part of this is that, while I was the one who complained here about overnegation, I like this particular phrase. It seems very clear to me, and the emphasis makes it perfect.

It is a good thing I didn't study linguistics, or I would have flunked!
 
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Yeah, I think I agree. I don't see the problem with it.

How about this one:
quote:

The government rushed to investigate the case thoroughly, eager to dispel any appearance that it did not take the murder of one of its citizens lightly, even one opposed to majority rule.
 
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That was a very interesting discussion, particularly because of the original misprint. I don't think that one is that bad, either. Perhaps I am getting used to these. Wink
 
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I guess I'd know what the author meant, though I would be inclined to work it out, like Language Log did and wonder if I were right.

That's why I find this overnegations so unhelpful.
 
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I've never said that overnegation wasn't confusing. It is confusing, but also very interesting.
 
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Thinking about these just makes my brain hurt! I realize that people know what is meant, but it's just so hard getting there.
 
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Triple negatives are even harder than double negatives. But it would be difficult to say make this point in a positive manner whilst stil retaining the precise sense of it.

"I want to encourage people to abstain from voting" is a rather more emphatic suggestion.


Richard English
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Richard English:
"I want to encourage people to abstain from voting" is a rather more emphatic suggestion.


That's not what the speaker meant.

quote:
McDonald: And those, um
those votes are breaking, um, heavily, uh, in favor of Obama
ah, and the polling shows a lead for Obama in the state
so, it would be very unusual for Mitt Romney to somehow
um, come from behind to win Nevada.
But still, you know, it's possible…

Montagne: And…

McDonald: …and I don't want to discourage people from not voting today.

Montagne: Right.


It's clear that McDonald meant "I don't want to discourage people from voting." But he added an extra negation, an overnegation if you will.
 
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I had assumed he meant what the sentence meant. I didn't realise he had put in a redundant negative. Of course, I don't have any idea what the man's politics are; the US election will obviously affect us - but as we cannot influence its result there's not much point in getting het up about it.

But this convoluted sentence shows, I suppose, just how careful you have to be when using multiple negatives - especially if you are a politician trying to make an important point.


Richard English
 
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This thread is for examples of overnegation: sentences with one negative too many.
 
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That's how it started - but it took very little time for it to move onto all kinds of excessive negation.


Richard English
 
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"I don't see how not to believe that they were not working on the basis of internal polls that were just totally wrong"

To quote commenter robert:

quote:
'I don’t see how not to believe ' equals 'I feel forced to believe X'. Substitute that, and the misnegation becomes obvious. The problem is the 'not' in 'were not working', because the speaker is convinced the Republicans were working on the basis of erroneous polls.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: goofy,
 
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It has been a very interesting thread, I think. I was a doubter at first, too, but I can see how overnegation can add emphasis, as long as it's not too crazy.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Kalleh:
It has been a very interesting thread, I think. I was a doubter at first, too, but I can see how overnegation can add emphasis, as long as it's not too crazy.


What examples of overnegation from this thread do you think are ok? It seems to me that overnegation isn't done to add emphasis; it happens simply because we get confused when we use negatives.
 
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I suppose that depends on what you mean by "overnagation". In British English double negatives are common and are used to slightly modify a meaning (usually to make it less emphatic, not more).

For example the sentence, "I don't dislike Goose Island beers" means that I'll drink them but could prefer something else give the chance. Eliminating the negatives would result in "I like Goose Island beers" - not really the same thing at all.

But triple or even quadruple negatives can become very confusing and I would avoid them.


Richard English
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Richard English:
I suppose that depends on what you mean by "overnagation".


Overnegation describes a situation where there is one negative too many. For instance "Don't fail to miss it" instead of "don't miss it". Or Hemingway's "I missed not working" instead of "I missed working". Or any of the other examples I've given.

quote:
Originally posted by Richard English:
In British English double negatives are common and are used to slightly modify a meaning (usually to make it less emphatic, not more).


That's not overnegation, that's litotes.

I've had one Goose Island beer, a bourbon aged stout, and it was really good.
 
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In addition, it often happens when a speaker* loses track of a sentence, often because they've used a double negative for emphasis or litotes, and adds another negative, thus saying the opposite of what is meant. In the example given a few posts above, "I don't want to discourage people from not voting today" the speaker really meant "I don't want to discourage people from voting today", but obviously threw in the extra not when he forgot how he'd started the sentence.

* It's usually possible for a writer to reread what has been written and correct such errors before they are published, but not of course for a speaker. That's not to say that all such mistakes are caught in the editing process, though. Roll Eyes


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.
Terry Pratchett

Build a man a fire and he'll find a way to set someone else aflame.
Proofreader


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by goofy:
quote:
Originally posted by Richard English:
I suppose that depends on what you mean by "overnagation".


Overnegation describes a situation where there is one negative too many. For instance "Don't fail to miss it" instead of "don't miss it". Or Hemingway's "I missed not working" instead of "I missed working". Or any of the other examples I've given.

quote:
Originally posted by Richard English:
In British English double negatives are common and are used to slightly modify a meaning (usually to make it less emphatic, not more).


That's not overnegation, that's litotes.

I've had one Goose Island beer, a bourbon aged stout, and it was really good.

I didn't mean to suggest it was overnegation; I was speaking of double negatives and the reason why they are commonly in UK English. I am sure there will be special lexical words to describe the various kinds of negation.


Richard English
 
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Goofy, this was the one I rather liked:
quote:
Don't underestimate the implications of the Famine
. Don't get me wrong, I don't like the complicated overnegatations, but a few of them I don't mind any more.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Kalleh:
Goofy, this was the one I rather liked:
quote:
Don't underestimate the implications of the Famine
. Don't get me wrong, I don't like the complicated overnegatations, but a few of them I don't mind any more.

To my mind it would be difficult - or maybe impossible - to convey the meaning of that sentence in any other way.


Richard English
 
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quote:
Don't underestimate the implications of the Famine


This one isn't an overnegation at all. I don't think I should have posted it.
 
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Is this overnegation or just too complex a sentence?

From the Huffington Post:

"New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said Friday that he agreed that former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney's recent comment on a conference call with donors that President Barack Obama won reelection because of "gifts" to minority and young voters was wrong."


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
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Too complicated a sentence in my view. He'd have been better off putting the 'was wrong' bit towards the front of the sentence.


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A bit more punctuation would have helped a great deal:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said Friday that he agreed that former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney's recent comment, on a conference call with donors, that "...President Barack Obama won reelection because of "gifts" to minority and young voters..." was wrong."


Richard English
 
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I agree with ARnie. I would have made it:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said Friday that former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney's was wrong in his recent comment, on a conference call with donors, that "...President Barack Obama won reelection because of "gifts" to minority and young voters..."


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
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Your rewrite is probably better.

But I didn't recast the sentence as I wanted to make the point that simply using better punctuation would make a big difference on its own.


Richard English
 
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there's no negation in that sentence is there?
 
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Well, first Christie agreed and then he said it was wrong so it was confusing, though not because of overnegation.

Maybe this?

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said Friday that that former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney's recent comment that President Barack Obama won reelection because of "gifts" to minority and young voters was wrong.

I think there was just a lot of irrelevant information in the comment, making it confusing. Why say he "agreed"? He said it so of course he agreed. Do we have to talk about a conference call with donors at all? I don't see how that adds a thing.
 
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An example shown on this week's Have I Got News For You.

George Alagiah (a British Newsreader) asking a question about the appointment of Canadian Mark Carney as the new Bank of England Governor:

"What's he got, Mark Carney, that no one in Britain, apparently, has not?"
 
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I heard Alagiah's original announcement; I didn't realise that HIGNFY had picked it up as I've not yet seen the latest edition.

Mind you, they are pretty good at spotting these things. Probably the best news-related comedy show since "Yes Minister".


Richard English
 
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Great example, Bob!
 
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quote:
Your not leaving with Mo is the best thing that never happened to me.


Homer Simpson

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Well, that one is confusing, though it is Homer after all...
 
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Whew! I can't even begin to diagram that one. Strangely, I understood the sentiment correctly as written, but in reading the comments (in the links - 2nd one by Andy Averill) I see that it was incorrectly written. Blew right by me.
 
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"refused to stop;" and "to end;" are all in the same sentence? Good luck with that one!
 
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From Forbes today, here's a line I found confusing (in italics). The second decision cited is supposed to contrast to the first (& it does... I think), but I had to read it more than once to figure that out.

quote:
Two federal appeals courts last week reviewed the legality behind concealed carry laws. In Denver, the court decided that concealed-carry firearms aren’t protected by the Second Amendment. A thousand miles away in Chicago, the court reached a different decision. It declined to reconsider a ruling that found that state’s ban on concealed carry unconstitutional.
 
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Wow, you are right. Interestingly, in the same issue of Forbes they came out with a lovely list of the 100 most miserable cites. Guess where Chicago was? #4. Mad
 
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I heard an interesting comment recently from NPR. They were reporting on women in sports in colleges and commenting on why there are no women coaches for men sports, but tons of men coaches for women's sports. They said, "I guess men are sensitive and women are not insensitive."

Is there a difference?
 
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A friend of mine runs a blog reviewing local (to Birmingham and Wolverhampton) theatre and poetry events.

His latest review of a musical at Wolverhampton's Grand Theatre is full of gushing praise but ends in the line

"No-one can fail to emerge from this show without a smile on their face".
 
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My brain is hurting! Yet, you just know what he meant right away.

I know it's acceptable, but I still have a hard time using "their" in that circumstance.
 
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Reviving a thread

I just had to bring this thread to the top again because of all our conversation over here about double negatives. Here is a good analysis of the double negative mistake that supposedly happened in Helsinki
 
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For me the biggest clue is how long it took for that bizarre retraction. Someone would have issued the correction in minutes had it not been intended. No one would have let it stand. And that's discounting the fact that it would contradict the general tone of literally everything else in the speech.

Here's how it goes.

Chocolate is great.
Chocolate is wonderful.
Chocolate is the most delicious food in the whole Universe.
I could eat chocolate for every meal.
I love chocolate.
Chocolate is simply the most important thing in my life.

(Thinks for twenty four hours)

Oh, did I say love. I meant hate. I misspoke myself. That one word, as I'm sure you can see, changes everything.

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Interesting link, Goofy. While other presidents have done that (as a comment said), I don't believe I have ever heard this kind of a retraction after saying something center stage - in front of the world. If he meant "wouldn't," like Bob says, he would have changed it right then and there. He waited for the critics and then another 24 hours. Imagine the meetings he must have had!

I agree with Bob, but also it is suspect that he only made the retraction here in the U.S. and not publicly to Putin.
 
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Comrade Trump didn't misspeak. He simply lied.
 
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