Thursday, June 06, 2013

June 6: Double Negative Day

On this date in 1965 the Rolling Stones released the single (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction, which became their first number one hit in the United States.  Featuring a blatant double negative in its title and chorus, the song reminds us that although teachers of Standard English frown upon them, double negative can still pack a punch.

In The Columbia Guide to Standard American English, Kenneth G. Wilson provides a succinct explanation of double negatives:  "Most kinds of double negative are inappropriate in spoken and written Standard English except in jocular use . . .. This was not always so, however, and the double negative remains one of the best illustrations of what was once a perfectly acceptable locution being driven by the decisions of grammarians, not out of the language, but out of Standard use."
Quote of the Day:  In life two negatives don't make a positive. Double negatives turn positive only in math and formal logic. In life things just get worse and worse and worse.  --Robert McKee

1 comment:

Ed @ Lexicolatry said...

Double negatives are common (and perfectly correct) in Romance languages, and sometimes English speakers learning them edit them out think that they are speaking 'more proper'.