Nobody Does It Like Sara Lee?

Wilson Gray wilson.gray at RCN.COM
Tue Apr 19 18:25:00 UTC 2005

On Apr 19, 2005, at 1:39 PM, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Nobody Does It Like Sara Lee?
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> --------
> On Tue, 19 Apr 2005 11:33:18 -0400, Laurence Horn
> <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> wrote:
>> At 9:34 AM -0400 4/19/05, Wilson Gray wrote:
>>> 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..."
>> Hmmm, I hadn't thought of that.  That's certainly a possible
>> interpretation (and not just for AAVE speakers, since negative
>> concord is a lot more widespread), but on the flip side...
>> (1) at that time, at least, negative concord in TV commercials would
>> have been relatively unexpected*, and speakers who control negative
>> concord would be likely to be at least passively aware of cancelling
>> double negation, even if they wouldn't use it themselves
>> (2) note the singular agreement:  "Nobody don't like Sara Lee" would
>> be more likely interpretable as a universal rejection.
>> (3)  given that it's clearly a Sara Lee commercial, the negative
>> concord interpretation will yield a bit of cognitive dissonance
>> ("Nobody likes it, but why don't you go ahead and buy it anyway...").
> Speaking of negative concord in TV commercials, I recall that Burger
> King
> had a mid-'90s ad campaign for the Whopper using Marvin Gaye's song
> "Ain't
> Nothing Like the Real Thing."  That struck me as an unfortunate choice,
> since people might provide the interpretation "It ain't nothing like
> the
> real thing" rather than "There ain't nothing like the real thing."

True, but these two have the same meaning for a lot of standard-E
speakers. Cf. Dr. Phil or the late, great Ken Hale. But has anyone but
me and Aaron McGruder noticed the asininity of Mickey D's current
urban-audience slogan, "I'd hit that [ass]"? In current BE, this phrase
means, "There goes a woman with whom I'd like to have sex" (in my
youth, we said "I'd tap that [ass]") and leaving out the word "ass"
changes the meaning not a whit. It merely turns the phrase into a


> A more recent example of unfortunate burger-chain sloganeering is "You
> gotta eat!" for Checker's/Rally's.  As King Kaufman wrote on,
> this could be interpreted as: "(What the Heck), Ya Gotta Eat! (or
> you'll
> starve, and eating our burgers is marginally better than starvation)."
> --Ben Zimmer

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