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Generally, a double negative implies a positive.

I'm not going nowhere

(So I must be going somewhere)

Although, in colloquial or illiterate circles it may not.

We don't need no stinkin' badges.

What examples are there of a double positive implying a negative?

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How can double positive imply a negative? –  Philoto Jun 15 '11 at 12:50
    
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@Tragicomic yeah, right, if it is said sarcastically, it can be a negation. But it's not the case of double positive making a negative. Every phrase, when said sarcastically, can mean its own exact opposite. –  Philoto Jun 15 '11 at 13:07
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It is simply not true that a double negative implies a positive. With suitable context and emphasis you can make "I'm not going nowhere" come out positive (for example, "I think you're going nowhere." "No, I'm not going nowhere") but without that special context and intonation, every native speaker of every variety of English will understand that to be negative, even if they complain that it is "ungrammatical". This egregious falsehood has been promulgated by generations of educators to provide a rationalisation for their arbitrary social judgments. –  Colin Fine Jun 15 '11 at 13:39
    
I will say more, in some languages it is grammatical to use double negative and it will still be negative. Never say "never" in russian, for example, sounds more like never do not say "never" (никогда не говори "никогда"). And it is a proper negative statement. We do need to use clumsy constructions if we want double negative to imply a positive. –  Philoto Jun 15 '11 at 13:46

3 Answers 3

The reason why there are no double positives implying negatives, is because double positives are used to mean that something is doubly good

Yeah - right

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Wiktionary's discussion page for the Yeah Right states The words themselves emphasise the positive. Only the tone and expression indicate irony –  JoseK Jun 15 '11 at 12:56
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@Josek, There is a famous (in el&l circles) joke that a lecturer announces there are no double.... and a voice from the back of the room responds sarcastically "yeah right" –  mgb Jun 15 '11 at 12:59
    
Yes - I'm referring to that very joke as the link shows. The entry called "double positive" contained that anecdote but was removed with the above comment –  JoseK Jun 15 '11 at 13:01
    
@JoseK It could be reasonably argued that the 2 words paired together are so commonly used to indicate a sarcastic 'no', that the phrase itself has taken on that meaning. –  Jez Jun 15 '11 at 16:54

There aren't any double positives conveying a negative meaning.

The reason why there are no double positives implying negatives, is because double positives are used to mean that something is doubly good. For example:

Extra, extra good/Absolutely extremely excellent.

It's a bit like the maths principle that two negatives make a positive (not in illiterate circles), but two positives still make a positive

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There is one example that I'm aware of, but I do not have sufficient reputation to post an answer to my own question. I'll check in 8-hours to see if somebody else comes up with something. –  Bill Jun 15 '11 at 12:53
    
@Bill: you can comment on your own question without rep. –  Mitch Jun 15 '11 at 13:52
    
If I had ever written, "I don't get nothing that don't do me no good.", I would have written a double-double negative, which means a double positive (logically speaking, no negative concord). Now, those double positives done in that way would have given me a negative. That is, a negative followed by at least a 10% negative off of the grade I would have received on that assignment otherwise. –  jyc23 Jun 16 '11 at 3:55

Double negatives, e.g., "I can't get no satisfaction," are termed informal intensifiers and are used to stress negation. The rules affecting English grammar are not synonymous with mathematical operations, so it is an error to believe that two negations must create a positive. Of course, they can, if that is the speaker's intent:

"Mr T doesn't look as if he can't kick some butt." - Eddie Murphy

By the same token, a double positive would work as an intensifier, strengthening the degree of emphasis, as in this review of a Burgundy by critic Clive Coates:

Good balance. Positive at the end. Very good indeed.

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