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Double negatives in english
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Alexx
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Joined: 12 May 2007
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Location: Karviná & Praha, Czech Republic

PostPosted: 25-Apr-08 5:06  Reply with quote

Seeing "No country for old men" made me think about double negatives in english, and today hearing "I don't wanna see your face no more" in "American Woman" performed by Lenny Krawitz was a trigger to start some research about it.

So, natives, what is your attitute to double negatives? Do you use it/is it normally used in place you live? If yes, who uses it? If not, where do you think it is used normally? Are there regions (like Texas in "No coutry for old men"), where double negatives are so widely used, that it is considered normal?

Thanks for any input.
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kibicz
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PostPosted: 25-Apr-08 7:30  Reply with quote

And how about "We dont need no education" ?Wink
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GlennInFlorida
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PostPosted: 25-Apr-08 12:40  Reply with quote

I never use them - they are non-standard and conjure up visions of the uneducated and ignorant (in English, of course, not in other languages where they are standard usage).
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scrimshaw
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PostPosted: 25-Apr-08 13:19  Reply with quote

I'm with Glen on this one, in english double negatives is grammatically incorrect and conjures up thoughts of being uneducated.
When you here it in songs like...I don't need no education...the singer is pointing out that the students singing don't yet have a good education.

Regionally, maybe sparsely populated areas of the south.

About movie, No country for old men..
I think this is saying,

This (or that) is no country(area, land, wildness, place--not nation in this context) for old men.
This, or that, is, is understood.
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Sova
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PostPosted: 25-Apr-08 20:10  Reply with quote

I agree with scrimshaw and Glenn. Generally, it is known as incorrect grammatically, and at least among the more-educated population in America, it is considered a sign of a poor education. Having said that, however, I'd say that double negatives are a lot more common among teens, particularly since being perceived as smart is usually not considered "cool" at that age. Also, double negatives tend to come out more when a speaker is very emotional, or wants to emphasize the negative more strongly--albeit, it's still incorrect grammar even in this case.

Speaking from the perspective of one who grew up in Texas, it seems to me that double negatives are indeed more common in Texas, and in the South in general, and not just in sparsely populated areas as scrimshaw suggests, but also in urban and suburban areas (this being in comparison with the West and Northeast--in rural areas of the South, it is, as scrimshaw says, more common still). But I would attribute this to culture more than education. Kids are learning to speak this way long before going to school, and many of them simply get in the habit of speaking that way, and never make the effort to change. Certainly there are cases in Texas and elsewhere where education (or rather lack of it) is the biggest cause of this. Ex. "I ain't got none," which is simply horrible grammar on multiple levels.

... And just for the record, in spite of the bad grammar, "American Woman" just wouldn't sound right with "Don't wanna see your face any more") Smile
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wer
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PostPosted: 25-Apr-08 22:48  Reply with quote

O horror, horror, horror! Tongue nor heart
Cannot conceive nor name thee.
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Wicker808
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PostPosted: 25-Apr-08 23:32  Reply with quote

DjAvatar,

What about the film made you think about double negatives? The title does not contain a double negative.
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Alexx
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PostPosted: 26-Apr-08 3:54  Reply with quote

Interesting Smile. What about somewhere else than in the US?

Sova wrote:
... And just for the record, in spite of the bad grammar, "American Woman" just wouldn't sound right with "Don't wanna see your face any more") Smile


Just for sure, is it possible to correct this sentence "I don't wanna see your face no more" both ways:

I don't wanna see your face any more.

and

I do wanna see your face no more.

?

Wicker808 wrote:
DjAvatar,

What about the film made you think about double negatives? The title does not contain a double negative.


The title doesn't Smile, but every other sentence does. However, I understood very little from this movie, you people speak horible in TX Wink.
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fabik317
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PostPosted: 26-Apr-08 8:34  Reply with quote

If I remember correctly, Roger Waters once said something to the effect that "We don't need no education" should be interpreted with parentheses around "no education", pointing out the low quality of schooling in Britain of that time.
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GlennInFlorida
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Joined: 10 Apr 2005
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PostPosted: 26-Apr-08 14:15  Reply with quote

DjAvatar wrote:
Just for sure, is it possible to correct this sentence "I don't wanna see your face no more" both ways:

I don't wanna see your face any more.

and

I do wanna see your face no more.

?


not really - you would only see the first construction used. it would be possible to to use the second one as "I want to see your face no more" but it would sound rather like Yoda from Star Wars was speaking (quite odd and foreign).

also - "wanna" is slang for "want to" and, although you will hear it spoken a lot, except for kids sending text messages, you won't see it written.
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