Saturday, June 7, 2014

Double or triple negatives are hard to parse. Highfalutin and all that stuff

I have difficulty understanding the phrase "Not Unless." Less is negative, Un is negative, Not is negative

Sometimes I double parse the meaning of a sentence when it has the phrase "Not Unless" in it, and wondering if the speaker really intended that meaning when explaining things, or if he really just meant "Unless." It still makes me pause (giving myself enough time to parse the speaker's message) when hearing "Not Unless"

I knew well the word irregardless though, I knew that it's a wrong word. The word regardless would suffice, no need to prefix it with "ir"

I think the phrase "Not Unless" could benefit from the usage of a comma in between them. Or just use No and Unless with a well-placed pause between them


Q: "Are you going to make it to the party?"
A: "Not unless there are a lot of people there."

The meaning is clear:

A: "No, unless there are a lot of people there"

The answer is very clear, non-ambiguous. The answer may sound a bit blunt, but it's not ambiguous

Or avoid the double negative at all, it's instantly clear:

A: "If there are a lot of people there"

The rule of the thumb here is we should only hear the phrase "Not Unless" when something is being answered. If someone is using "Not Unless" while explaining something, the message can be confusing

Sometimes the usage of the phrase "Not Unless" is highfalutin. So there. I'm not the only one who feel that:


Is this use of 'not unless' correct?
If we travel in distant land, still uncharted on the map, and find a new mountain, can we say that we invented the mountain? Not unless we were insane.

I thought Not means we cannot, so this is really "We cannot (=Not) (say it was invented) unless we were insane.
or should i have said "not unless we are sane"?

can someone explain this to me?


In theory it is correct but it is a horrible example of proper English, American or other former colony. The author is trying to impress him/her self with their ability to use words.

Note to self: When someone says Not Unless, mentally convert it to If. They might mean Unless though, so mentally convert it to If Not. Bummer

No comments:

Post a Comment