Double Negatives

If there’s one time in your life when it pays to be very careful about what you’re saying, then it’s when you’re answering questions about crimes that you have been accused of. You know, there’s that whole “anything you say will be taken down and can be used in evidence against you” thing going on.

So it’s depressing to read what Yasemin Vatansever (one of the girls who has been caught smuggling drugs out of Ghana) has to say for herself. At the end of a barely literate phone conversation, the BBC quotes her as saying:

We don’t know nothing about this drugs and stuff.

Which, when you think about it, is about as good a confession as you can hope for.


  1. Ah, but this assumes that language can be analysed scientifically, which my A-level English language teacher said was an assumption made by “twats, tossers and shitheads” (not sure if I’m quoting him directly there!)The actual meaning of double negatives like this is obviously a more emphatic denial than a single negative.Although it might be worth being a bit careful, as you say!

  2. Oh come now Dave, you must surely be aware that our great language exists in dialects other than the one that you happen to speak? :-)

  3. Ian,I know that language is flexible. But surely saying that the same set of words can have two meanings which are diametrically opposite to each other is taking that flexibility too far.People who say things like this might think they are emphasising their point. When actually they are only emphasising their stupidity.Robin,Is that a dialect? It’s certainly a very common usage. So common, in fact, that I think it’s used by speakers of many different dialects. Which means, I suspect, that it can’t be a dialect in itself.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.