I ain't got no problem with negative concord. Do you?


I'm not talking about using a construction like that in formal writing, but in your own native variety of English, do you use double negatives? Is my meaning obscured by the presence of a double negative, as Bishop Lowth tried to argue?

2 answers


To directly answer Gerry's question -- in your own native variety of English, do you use double negatives? -- on occasion, yes ...but only in informal conversation amongst my peer group.


My native variety of English is best characterized as rural Central California (my formative years were between the mid-1950s and the mid-1970s). The language history of my birth area was heavily influenced by the original Mid-Atlantic American settlers (1842 on) with a sprinkling of Texas (1850s) and Oklahoma (1930s) immigration waves. Spanish has been a constant influence and German was quite prevalent between 1856 and 1916.


I find I tend to use the double negative in speech as an intensifier -- I suppose the Spanish influence is at play here. It is almost always an intentional usage for me. I seldom "slip" into its use. I never use it in writing, no matter how informal.


As I have aged, I find I use and hear the usage (at least amongst my peer group) less. I suppose that may be due to my location -- a university community in the San Francisco Bay Area -- and my peer circle -- design professionals, academics and teachers, and several professional writers. I suppose our formal writing training makes us less apt to use the double negative in conversation. Still, the usage is not unknown.


I hope this helps.

link edited Jan 16 '13 at 03:22 Jeff Pribyl Grammarly Fellow

Jeff, can you give me an example or two of a 'double negative as an intensifier'? I am just curious. Thanks!

Shawn MooneyJan 16 '13 at 04:53

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I find it can be helpful in creating distinct dialogue between characters if one does, and the other does not. It allows me to use fewer dialogue tags when a reader knows that Jim-Bob says, "I ain't got no..." while Mr. Anderson says, "I would never..."


But then again, I'm a fiction writer, and character is character.

link comment answered Jan 19 '13 at 05:17 Tony Proano Expert

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