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"Raymond S. Wise" (Email Removed) wrote on 27 Feb 2004:
The litotes has had detractors other than George Orwell. The following is from "The Logic of Logical Double Negation" by ... reason, through choice or necessity, to conceal their feelings, avoid overstatement and direct commitment, and allow themselves loopholes. (end quote)

Excellent quotes here, Raymond.

Franke: EFL teacher & medical editor.
Dear all, What do you think of the construction "a not unintelligent man"? I know it is not prescriptively approved, ... as native speakers' replies as possible and please reveal the variety of English you speak before providing your valuable opinions.

Not prescriptively approved by whom?
I speak South African English. I see nothing wrong with the construction in itself, but that does not mean that I think it can be used in any contect.

I might use it when someone I don't think is stupid does something stupid.
Also, what about the construction "a not intelligent man"? Is this form as commonly accepted by native speakers as "a not unintelligent man"?

No.

Steve Hayes from Tshwane, South Africa
http://www.geocities.com/Athens/7734/stevesig.htm
E-mail - see web page, or parse: shayes at dunelm full stop org full stop uk
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Dear all,
Thank you for your helpful replies, but my question is not as much about double negation as about the position of 'not' with respect to a prenominal adjective.
Now I want to know whether a prescriptivist would prefer 'He is a not unintelligent man' or 'He is not an unintelligent man'. In other words, does prescriptive usage caution us against using 'not' directly in front of a prenominal adjective?
I would appreciate your replies.
Ray
Here is Fowler's opinion (MEU, 1927, s.v. not 2): `We say well & elegantly, not ungrateful, for very grateful' ... is to acknowledge that the idiom is allowable, & then to avoid it except when it is more than allowable..

I once read an Italian novel (I forget the author and title) in which one of the characters was usually mentioned with the characteristic "(who was not without a degree of common sense)" appended.

Steve Hayes from Tshwane, South Africa
http://www.geocities.com/Athens/7734/stevesig.htm
E-mail - see web page, or parse: shayes at dunelm full stop org full stop uk
What do you think of the construction "a not unintelligent ... variety of English you speak before providing your valuable opinions.

"A not unintelligent man" is alright in BrE providing this type of construction is used only in moderate amounts.

Speaking of BrE, whereas one can get away with 'alright' in some of the less tamed portions of America, how does the not unintelligent Englishman regard the word? His COD doesn't much care for it:

'alright
ยท adj., adv., & exclam. variant spelling of all right. USAGE The spelling alright (rather than all right) is still considered by many to be unacceptable in formal writing, even though other single-word forms such as altogether have long been accepted.'

Fowler wasn't too crazy about the spelling, either:

'1926 H. W. Fowler Mod. Eng. Usage 16/1 There are no such forms as all-right, allright, or alright, though even the last, if seldom allowed by the compositors to appear in print, is often seen...in MS.'
Charles Riggs
My email address: chriggs/at/eircom/dot/net
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Dear all, What do you think of the construction "a not unintelligent man"? I know it is not prescriptively approved, ... man"? Is this form as commonly accepted by native speakers as "a not unintelligent man"? Thank you very much. Ray

This is a type of litotes, or understatement.
It is not uncommon.
It is not unusual.
It is not incorrect.
Fowler says that it is not uncongenial to the
English temperament, and is associated with
a not unstubborn dislike of putting things too
strongly.

Michael West
I once read an Italian novel (I forget the author and title) in which one of the characters was usually mentioned with the characteristic "(who was not without a degree of common sense)" appended.

The point being what? That this is a common formation in Italian?

Michael West
"A not unintelligent man" is alright in BrE providing this type of construction is used only in moderate amounts.

Speaking of BrE, whereas one can get away with 'alright' in some of the less tamed portions of America, how does the not unintelligent Englishman regard the word? His COD doesn't much care for it:

++
"Alright" is all right here in Leeds, and I shall continue using it. ++
Fowler wasn't too crazy about the spelling, either: '1926 H. W. Fowler Mod. Eng. Usage 16/1 There are no such forms as all-right, allright, or alright, though even the last, if seldom allowed by the compositors to appear in print, is often seen...in MS.' ++

Fowler (1926) is out of date on this one.
In really modern usage (i.e. 2004, not 1926), "alright" actually has a different meaning from "all right". At least it does here in Leeds. The Concise Leeds Dictionary (The Primley Park Press, First Edition, February
2004) gives the following definitions which conflict with those of OED,Webster, W and R Chambers Ltd(Edinburgh) (no relation), Collins, and practically any other tired, hidebound, or out-of-date dictionary.

alright (adj, adv). Meeting all the minimum requirements. Just satisfactory (ily), but not necessarily any better than that.

all right (adj, adv). An adjective or averb describing a state where everything is correct and as it should be, in every respect.

It was in the above sense that I correctly used "alright" in my original posting. My grammar was all right. Alright? OK.
Richard Chambers Leeds UK.
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In really modern usage (i.e. 2004, not 1926), "alright" actually has a different meaning from "all right". At least it ... the above sense that I correctly used "alright" in my original posting. My grammar was all right. Alright? OK.

It's not all right with this Englishman, who would expect a sub-editor to correct your "alright"s.
Alan Jones
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