I’m Never Negative - Certainly Not Twice

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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.
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Comments

  1. We all have our pet peeves. Mine is using a subject pronoun where an object pronoun is required, like "between you and I."

    But then, I don't know nothing, neither!

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  2. This is so cute and so true. You made me laugh. I've never really thought it all the way through, but these phrases just never made sense to me.
    What about how people seem to use whenever, when they mean to use when. For example: Whenever my Dad was growing up, people rarely had TVs. Is is just me or is that weird?
    You do have a wonderful grasp of the language so I trust your judgement with these sorts of things.
    (Now I'm all worried that you're going to be critiquing what I write.)

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  3. I was just having this conversation with my hubby this weekend...I hate to say it but my mother's words haunt me almost everyday. His favorite ones that bring my mother's corrective voice is, totaled out, canceled out,...so I completely feel your pain....! It's also great to see your post...I've missed seeing you around here!

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  4. Hi JJ .. or nuffin ...

    Estuary English is spreading like muck .. sad to say - everything is getting dumbed down - do both, but at least prove you can speak properly ..

    I so agree ... cheers Hilary

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  5. I don't know nothin'...so true. :)
    Happy Valentine's day!
    Miriam@Meatless Meals For Meat Eaters

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  6. You are absolutely right JJ. And this situation concerning double negatives also happen in other languages, including my own, portuguese, and they can put you into trouble to really understand what is being said.

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  7. The one I remember from h.s. was :"I done did that!" lol

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  8. Yeah... I tend to be tolerant about most things but bad grammar does have a way of getting under my skin. Double negatives are particularly annoying. :)

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  9. I just hate giving in to the "warp" that has developed in the English language!! My pet peeves as well, JJ! Is nothing sacred any more??? Our son, Keil, has a serious hearing issue, and one of his grade school teachers spoke the kind of English that one might hear in the rural south. He couldn't understand her, and I asked that he be removed from her class because of it. It was a very sensitive issue, but because he had a legitimate disability, he was moved.

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  10. 'the English language is slowly, painfully warping'

    This is the best articulation I've heard of this phenomenon, yet.

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  11. I apologize for my late response. I thank you all for your comments.

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