"double negative"; name "Johnjoe"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Jan 14 01:10:45 UTC 2008

At 4:37 PM -0800 1/13/08, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>Saw this yesterday, serendipitously as usual:
>   2006 Ian McEwan in Robin Headlam Wells & Johnjoe McFadden _
>(London: Continuum) 41: Their paper...ended with the famously modest
>conclusion: 'It has not escaped our notice that the specific pairing
>we have postulated immediately suggests a possible copying mechanism
>for the genetic material.' 'It has not escaped our notice...' - the
>drawing-room politesse of the double negative is touchingly
>transparent. It roughly translates as 'Look at us everybody! We've
>found the mechanism by which life on earth replicates, we're excited
>as hell and can't sleep a wink...'
>   Seems to mean "single negative," unless somebody can reason more deviously.

The implication is that "escaped" is negative in import, although not
in form, so "has not escaped" is a double negative (the kind that
does cancel out, not a hypernegation), along the lines of "X is not
without its charms", a frequently commented on construction.


>   Ian McEwan, CBE, is a well-known English novelist.
>   BTW, a Google search unearths a handful of other "Johnjoes,"
>spelled sic. Most appear to be Irish, but 22,000 hits - most for
>McFadden - are daunting to search.
>   JL
>Never miss a thing.   Make Yahoo your homepage.
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list