Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Eisenhower used it constantly to fend off reporters. Is there a term to describe this type of phrase?

share|improve this question
3  
Awesome, a quadruple negative. –  Orbling Mar 3 '11 at 14:35
2  
I always heard that as "I couldn't fail NOT to disagree with you less." - One of my favorites! "I may be wrong, but I'm not far from it." –  mickeyf Mar 3 '11 at 14:44
    
@Orbling Quadruple negative? You mean you have photographs? :P –  Isaac Truett Mar 3 '11 at 18:56
    
@Isaac Truett: If these are Eisenhower's photos, I hope not! –  Orbling Mar 3 '11 at 19:11
1  
Similar: "That young girl is one of the least benightedly unintelligent organic life forms it has been my profound lack of pleasure not to be able to avoid meeting." Douglas Adams writing the character of Marvin. –  dmckee Mar 3 '11 at 22:49

1 Answer 1

up vote 12 down vote accepted

I think it's a rather extreme case of litotes. From the New Oxford American Dictionary:

ironical understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative of its contrary (e.g., you won't be sorry, meaning you'll be glad).

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.