Nobody Does It Like Sara Lee?

Wilson Gray wilson.gray at RCN.COM
Tue Apr 19 13:34:47 UTC 2005

On Apr 18, 2005, at 10:51 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Nobody Does It Like Sara Lee?
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> --------
> At 2:55 PM -0700 4/18/05, Allen Maberry wrote:
>> I could say "everybody dislikes something" but I don't believe I
>> would ever say, "everybody doesn't like something", or "nobody
>> doesn't like X [Sara Lee, apple pie, mom, etc.]" but I could say
>> "nobody dislikes X". I don't have any explanation why that is,
>> unless there is something about inserting "does/doesn't" that makes
>> it sound strange to me when used in these phrases.
> I don't think it's the "does" that does it, since the same would
> apply in non-do-support contexts (cf. "Everybody isn't here",
> "Everyone can't come").
> Besides the garden path factor I mentioned earlier (the fact that
> "everybody doesn't like X" tends to be interpreted, all things being
> equal, as "not everybody likes X", while this reading is ruled out
> when negation is incorporated into the predicate as in "dislikes"),
> there's the fact that the two readings of the awkward ambiguous
> "Every...not..." statement each has an unambiguous paraphrase that
> tends for this reason to be preferred:  "not everybody likes X" for
> the wide scope, [NOT [EVERY]] negation and "nobody likes X" for the
> narrow scope negation, [EVERY [NOT]].  While "Everybody dislikes X"
> isn't quite a paraphrase of the latter, since it amounts to a
> stronger, contrary negation rather than a simple contradictory of
> "Somebody likes X"*, it does unambiguously have narrow-scope negation
> and thus doesn't suffer from one fatal flaw of "Everybody doesn't
> like X".
> A possible paraphrase of the full Sara Lee ditty which doesn't suffer
> from the ambiguity flaw is "Everybody has something they don't like
> (...but for nobody is that something Sara Lee)".  I guess it has
> other flaws, though.
> larry
> *disliking is stronger than simply not-liking, so that "Nobody likes
> X" can be true while "Everybody dislikes X" is false, namely if
> nobody has a favorable opinion toward X while some people just feel
> sort of wishy-washy about X.  The former amounts essentially to the
> non-existent "Everybody not-likes X".

Didn't someone once speculate that the colored probably couldn't
understand this slogan because of the use of the double negative in
"Nobody doesn't like...," since two negatives don't make a positive in
non-standard English? That is, the slogan would be interpreted as a
version of "Do(es)n't nobody like..."

-Wilson Gray

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