Hi all,
"Thou shalt not never use no double negatives" was pumped into me at school. Is it really a rule? I am sure that there are literary constructions where it is impossible NOT to use a dreaded double negative - *I am not disgruntled.*
The same goes for "and + and" in the same sentence. *He wrote 'sleet and snow' without spaces between "sleet" and "and", and "and" and "snow".*

BR H

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Life was made to be taken seriously, otherwise
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Hi all, "Thou shalt not never use no double negatives" was pumped into me at school. Is it really a rule? I am sure that there are literary constructions where it is impossible NOT to use a dreaded double negative - *I am not disgruntled.*

Statistics prove that 74.8% of all "rules" pumped into one at school were faulty.
Of course there is a proscription against double negatives, but only when you mean the single negative.
"There ain't no beer" - we know what it means, but it's not good formal English. It's perfectly good colloquial English, depending on where you live.
"I am not unhappy" - this is OK, although this sort of construct may be more common in the UK than the US.
The same goes for "and + and" in the same sentence. *He wrote 'sleet and snow' without spaces between "sleet" and "and", and "and" and "snow".*

It's a bit contrived. Is there a real-world example?

David
==
"Thou shalt not never use no double negatives" was pumped into me at school. Is it really a rule? I am sure that there are literary constructions where it is impossible NOT to use a dreaded double negative - *I am not disgruntled.*

You just used two, as of course you intended to.
Well, you answered your own question.
Of course it's not a rule.
To say the obvious, by now in your life, as a married man, you will have discovered that a lot of what they tell kids in school is patently false. There are no 'rules' of 'correct' grammar; there are opinions, and they contradict one another. Grownups have to make their own choices.
The same goes for "and + and" in the same sentence. *He wrote 'sleet and snow' without spaces between "sleet" and "and", and "and" and "snow".*

Both these putative 'rules' are American folk taboos, on the order of (and with the same degree of authority and importance as) the taboo against women wearing white shoes after Labor Day. In both cases violations are normal and offend only a few credulous people whose opinions are usually irrelevant to the conduct of one's life.
-John Lawler http://www.umich.edu/~jlawler / UM Linguistics Dept "Academic integrity still plagues campus" Headline, University of Michigan Daily 11/12/02
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Hi all, "Thou shalt not never use no double negatives" was pumped into me at school. Is it really a rule? I am sure that there are literary constructions where it is impossible NOT to use a dreaded double negative - *I am not disgruntled.*

There is a figure of speech, common in English, that looks like a double negative but is not. Your "not disgruntled" is one such. Check "litotes" in any decent dictionary.
The same goes for "and + and" in the same sentence. *He wrote 'sleet and snow' without spaces between "sleet" and "and", and "and" and "snow".*

The use-mention distinction is implicated here. Even without it, there's no objection to multiple "and"s: "I lunched on steak and salad, and I dined on corned beef and cabbage." I can't think of a way to line up two or more "and"s in a row without quotation marks, but my ignorance is no evidence that it can't be done.

Bob Lieblich
Not unhelpful, I hope
While it was 3/12/03 1:00 am throughout the UK, Robert Lieblich sprinkled little black dots on a white screen, and they fell thus:
There is a figure of speech, common in English, that looks like a double negative but is not. Your "not disgruntled" is one such. Check "litotes" in any decent dictionary.

You mean people 'see' such prefixes as "dis" as negatives, but they're technically not?
The same goes for "and + and" in the same ... without spaces between "sleet" and "and", and "and" and "snow".*

Now, as long as there's the right amount of space between """sleet""" and "and", and "and" and """and"",", and """and""," and "and", and "and" and """and""", and """and""" and "and", and "and" and """snow""".

Stewart.

My e-mail is valid but not my primary mailbox, aside from its being the unfortunate victim of intensive mail-bombing at the moment. Please keep replies on the 'group where everyone may benefit.
While it was 3/12/03 1:00 am throughout the UK, Robert Lieblich sprinkled little black dots on a white screen, and they fell thus:

There is a figure of speech, common in English, that ... disgruntled" is one such. Check "litotes" in any decent dictionary.

You mean people 'see' such prefixes as "dis" as negatives, but they're technically not?

It appears that some people would consider "not disgruntled" to be a double negative and some would not. I can cite one source which does consider it a double negative, the Hutchinson Encyclopaedia at

http://www.tiscali.co.uk/reference/dictionaries/english/data/d0081963.html
(quote)
There is one sort of double negative that is accepted in standard English. You can use not with a word that has a negative prefix, in order to emphasize positive meaning - as in a not inconsiderable sum and a not unreasonable question. The technical name for this is litotes, pronounced (lie-tote-ees).
(end quote)
The Danish linguist Otto Jespersen, who wrote an important grammar of English, also wrote a work called *Negation in English and Other Languages.* I have not read that book, but I've read something else in which he discussed the litotes although he didn't use that term in the same section in which he discussed the double negative. The litotes he used as an illustration was "not uncommon." See the section on negation in Eric Partridge's book *Usage and Abusage: A Guide to Good English,* new edition edited by Janet Whitcut, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, (C) 1973, which cites Jespersen's *Logic and Grammar.*
The use of two or more negatives to express a negative meaning is called "negative concord" by linguists. We could avoid the possible confusion arising from the term "double negative" by sticking to the terms "litotes" and "negative concord."

Raymond S. Wise
Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
E-mail: mplsray @ yahoo . com
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
"Thou shalt not never use no double negatives" was pumped into me at school. Is it really a rule? I am sure that there are literary constructions where it is impossible NOT to use a dreaded double negative - *I am not disgruntled.*

You got me ... I'm still trying to parse "I Don't Know Nothing About Birthin' No Babies!"
"Thou shalt not never use no double negatives" was pumped ... use a dreaded double negative - *I am not disgruntled.*

You got me ... I'm still trying to parse "I Don't Know Nothing About Birthin' No Babies!"

You got one too many in there. Internet Movie Database has:

Prissy: Lawzy, we got to have a doctor! I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies!

Best Donna Richoux
"Master of the universe and supreme ruler of all living beings \(and I

You got me ... I'm still trying to parse "I Don't Know Nothing About Birthin' No Babies!"

You got one too many in there. Internet Movie Database has: Prissy: Lawzy, we got to have a doctor! I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies!

Note that the version with the extra "no" is no less understandable than the version used in the movie. Negative concord rarely if ever causes misunderstanding for speakers of dialects in which it is not used. In my experience it's in standard dialects that multiple negation can sometimes cause problems for understanding.
Linguist John McWhorter gives an example of multiple negation from another nonstandard dialect in his book *The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language.* From page 58: "All non-Standard English dialects use 'double negation' ( I ain't got none), but Farnworth English also allows particularly spectacular negation Dagwood sandwiches: I am not never going to do nowt no more for thee. ( Nowt is nothing .)" I'm wondering if McWhorter is correct in asserting that all nonstandard English dialects use the double negative (negative concord).

Raymond S. Wise
Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
E-mail: mplsray @ yahoo . com
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