I’m Never Negative - Certainly Not Twice
As many of my followers are aware, I do have a few pet peeves. I usually smile, but one or two things occasionally get under my skin.
As a writer and a teacher, the concept of the double negative has always intrigued me. I have studied the development and evolution of languages. I understand that street language will differ from the King’s English. What I have trouble with is the fact that while the English language is slowly, painfully warping, those of us who speak it are confused by those who inadvertently continue to morph it.
When I hear students using double negatives, it pierces my membranes like scratching nails on a chalkboard does for the ears of others. It is akin to proudly, but unknowingly, wearing one’s shirt backwards.
If I know something, I know it. If I do not know something, I do not know it. This is an easy concept requiring little linguistic sophistication. If I know nothing, I do not know anything. This is a clear concept. However, every day I hear students say, “I don’t know nothing.” To me, and other speakers of English on this planet, the students uttering these words are claiming to know something.
Listen to the words of the criminal caught in the act explaining himself to the police officer: “I didn’t do nothing.” GUILTY! If you did not do nothing, you did something. The proper answer of an English-speaking innocent person should be, “I did not do anything,” or “I did nothing.” Only the guilty person brazenly announces, “I didn’t do nothing.” In law, they call that an admission!
Double negatives are algebraically clear. Two negatives equal a positive. If a person includes two negative words in a sentence, the possibility of creating a positive is overwhelming.
I understand that many of us lack the ability to speak formal English for a variety of reasons. It has nothing to do with intelligence. Nor do I claim to be better than others. I am sure many people express themselves far better than I can ever hope to do. However, what irks me is the reaction some people have when you rely on their spoken word, and they act as though the misinterpretations were your fault.
I am not being pompous. I just don’t know nothing.