Non-unimportance of double-negs

One consequence of Yogi Adityanath‘s administration deciding to mark November 25 as ‘No Non-Veg’ Day is people have become very aware of the phenomenon of double negatives. ‘No Non-Veg’ may be the same as ‘Veg’, but not being non-veg makes it a point to say what it isn’t rather than what it is. In other words, it can, for impressionable shakahari minds, lodge curiosity and interest in the non-non-masahari.

Like misplaced commas, double negatives are the unsung heroes of linguistic chaos. Clarity may be sought out by simpletons, but ‘not-nos’ provide texture, linguistic strategy and, in the case of Adityanath’s project, unintended consequences. Two wrongs can make a right, leaving grammar Nazis cringing in silent despair, a separate entertainment all by itself. Double negatives are the renegades causing syntactic havoc, leaving sentences in a state of perpetual identity crisis. Armed with a paradoxical mission, the ‘double neg’ manages to turn affirmative statements into verbal mazes. Whether Al Jolson’s famous line, ‘You ain’t heard nothing yet,’ from the 1927 The Jazz Singer that heralded the end of the silent movie era (a.k.a., the start of the talkies), or the Rolling Stones‘ (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – which, ironically, despite being a double negative, is a song about ‘unsatisfaction’ – this is language at its stealthiest best.


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