Researchers from St. Andrews University in Scotland published a paper on the "Linguistical Interactions Between Primary and Secondary level Administrative Offices of the U.S Legislature for Communication to the American Voter" in the New Science magazine today.
The paper introduces itself with the hypothesis that "during the course of the current US administration double negatives have been used to confound the general public. Though this has worked in part, members of the legislature have not employed the tactic appropriately and have thus been categorised as liars and have fallen foul of the court system in the US when incorrectly deploying the double negative on oath."
TheSpoof.com asked Andrew Capp DipHons PhD, one of the co-contributors to the paper to explain the theory behind their publication and demonstrate how it is used.
Andrew Capp explains: "The use of the double negative is common place in our society today, but not by intention.
"However when used effectively to convey what one means it can generally be taken that approximately 73% of the time a person listening to someone using this technique will go away thinking they've heard what they want to hear."
Dr Capp gave us the following hypothetical scenario. If we take a country X, which does not have any law regarding scrumping for apples, but does have a law which determines the climbing of fences into apple fields is punishable by death. We should also assume the farmer is friendly with the local policeman and wants to get rid of the 'scrumpers'. So he speaks to his policeman, who fortunately for the farmer, is completely conversant in double-negative verbiology.
According to Dr Capp, when the policeman approaches the miscreant in the apple orchard the conversation could go as follows:
- Policeman: There's no law against scrumping isn't there?
Policeman: So you accept I'm not wrong in my initial statement, do you not?
Miscreant: Yes. (At this stage the miscreant has already agreed that he is in the wrong because he should have said no in order to agree with the initial statements proposition. The policeman is well on the way to a confession; it's just up to the policeman as to what this person is going to confess.)
Policeman: Not being here, though you are, possibly could not be construed as not appropriate, don't you think.
Miscreant: No. I ain't done nothing wrong. (In this case the youth should have said 'Yes, I ain't not done nothing wrong.' So the policeman still has the upper hand.)
Policeman: Young youth you see that fence over yonder?
Policeman: You ain't not being in this field, not on the other side of the fence like don't mean you ain't climbed it haven't you?" (This type of statement is the kingpin of double negative verbiology as it doesn't matter what the answer is because the answer allows the speaker of the sentence to interpret the answer in whatever way is appropriate.
Miscreant: Erm… OK you got me Gov, I did it.
Policeman: OK Son hold out your arms whilst I snap these steel bracelets on. You're off to clink!
Although a fictitious scenario, Dr Capp says it highlights the power of double negative verbiology when it's employed, and how people, without the proper training, can become victims of its power through their own misuse.