Former President Donald Trump made a grammatical blunder recently. Thanks to a Trump double negative, he blasted those on his side!
Sometimes, grammar feels a lot like math. Many parts come together to make up a whole thought. But arranging those parts in the wrong way — or arranging the wrong parts together — can lead to unintended consequences. I give you an example from our former president with a Donald Trump double negative.
A double negative refers to a sentence with a positive outcome because two negatives negate each other.
Consider the sentence, “I wasn’t unhappy with my annual review.” The contraction wasn’t is the first negative. prefix un before happy is the second negative.
With both together in the same sentence, the sentence takes on the opposite meaning. If someone was unhappy with their review, they were not pleased with it. Likewise, if someone wasn’t happy with their review, they were not pleased with it.
But when you combine both negatives in the same sentence, someone who wasn’t unhappy was happy (or at least satisfied to some degree).
In the comedy film Murder By Death, Neil Simon’s spoof of classic detectives contains a line about just such a grammatical quagmire. The late Peter Sellers played Inspector Sidney Wang, a takeoff on the Charlie Chan character of the 1930s. While on the way to a mysterious house, he and his adopted son stop their car at Wang’s insistence and he listens to the sound of a dog barking in the distance.
“I don’t hear nothing,” his son says. “What do you hear?”
“Double negative and dog,” Wang responds.
In this case, the double negative is the result of poor grammar. His son didn’t hear the barking dog. So he should have either said, “I don’t hear anything” or “I hear nothing.” But combining don’t with nothing technically means he did hear something, even though it’s clear he didn’t.
Trump double negative insults supporters
Our former president is nothing if not predictable. In what should be a surprise to no one, he’s still pushing his election fraud claims. He still believes the election was “stolen” from him and that he received more votes than his challenger, Joe Biden.
But when he issued a statement recently, he made a grammatical faux pas. Can you spot the double negative?
“Anybody that doesn’t think there wasn’t massive election fraud in the 2020 presidential election is either very stupid, or very corrupt!”
Obviously, he should have said “Anybody who thinks there wasn’t massive election fraud” or “Anybody who doesn’t think there was massive election fraud….”
But as he wrote it, he’s basically saying anyone who thinks there was massive election fraud in the 2020 election must either be “very stupid” or “very corrupt.”
He’s the one who said it. Not me.