another (over)negation?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Nov 7 00:47:28 UTC 2010

At 7:27 PM -0400 11/6/10, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>Some people just can't handle more than one negative in a sentence. (I don't
>mean "double negatives" in the usual sense; I mean short-attention-span

"Piled-up negatives prove easy stumbling-blocks."
--W. H. Hodgson, _Errors in the Use of English_ (1885: 218), New
York: Appleton.

I like to call these "_parole_ violations" to distinguish them from
conventionalized instances of hypernegation like "I miss not seeing
you around" or of course negative concord.


>I've heard similar confused statements on the news a number of times in the
>last few weeks. It's almost as though a new "rule" is being created in the
>spirit of, but more insidious than, "is-is."
>On Sat, Nov 6, 2010 at 3:35 PM, Victor Steinbok <aardvark66 at>wrote:
>  >
>>  Twitter from Chuck Todd (NBC News):
>>  > Cannot believe reports about bogus cost of president's trip didn't
>  > > pass smell test with so many folks. Ridiculous that it got any traction
>  >
>>  I thought "not passing the smell test" was "being unbelievable". He
>>  seems to imply just the opposite here--too many people /believed/ the
>>  bogus report.
>  >     VS-)

The American Dialect Society -

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