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Often, I come across expressions like 'I can't have no money', 'I don't want no help', 'Do you want them tomatoes', 'Be careful with them toes' when watching cartoons, movies and shows. Does anybody consider these to be proper English?

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This should be two separate questions. –  RegDwigнt Jan 24 '11 at 10:23

5 Answers 5

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None are correct English, but they are typical in the vernacular. These particular examples are often used by Cockneys (people from east London), where double negatives are common, often for comical effect (in the form of irony or sarcasm) or to emphasise.

I can't have no money, I don't want no help

More frequently "I ain't got no money". Negating the fact reinforces the speaker's lack of money / complete refusal of help.

In a sarcastic vein, a Cockney would say:

D'ya see Andy's new bird? No slim chick!

Andrew has a new girlfriend. She's very fat.

Do you want them tomatoes? Be careful with them toes

I don't know the origin of these deliberate errors (them instead of those), but I suspect that they are a way to identify oneself as a member of the community. Another common deliberate mistake is to decline the verb "be" as if it were regular:

We was waiting for the bloke, an' 'e never came!

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Negative concord is not used for emphasis my friend. –  McGurk May 24 at 18:18
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Things like this aren't deliberate, that's a common fallacy. Speech is spontaneous. Dialectal features can mark someone as an in-member of a community, and there can be conscious awareness of this, but no one is "making mistakes on purpose" for that. They aren't even making mistakes, all of these sentences are grammatical! –  McGurk May 24 at 18:25
    
@McGurk "all of these sentences are grammatical" is a meaningless tautology; every sentence that isn't nonsense contains some sort of grammar. The correct phrase is "all those sentences are grammatically correct". That statement is false; "we was waiting for the bloke" is grammatically incorrect in English. There is no fallacy, when Fred says "we was waiting for the bloke", he does so knowing that it is incorrect, but the 'in' way to speak. Oh, and given the ghastly English you write, spare me the 'my friend', we ain't, thanks. –  smirkingman May 24 at 20:18
    
You're talking about what's called "prescriptive grammar" and it's been out of vogue since the 30s outside of the English classroom. In fact, you recognize this yourself when you say "every sentence that isn't nonsense contains some sort of grammar". That's exactly right. If you can understand exactly what is being said, its because the grammar of the sentence allows you to do so. Only 'proper' grammar allows us to do this, 'improper grammar' is incomprehensible. Your fastidiousness is in fact linguistic bigotry, not "encouraging proper speech" –  McGurk May 25 at 0:53
    
Furthermore, you're imagining teens or young adults saying "we was waiting for a bloke". Those people certainly have images to uphold. What about octogenarians? Would you really claim that an 80-year-old native of, I don't know, Belfast county, is trying to "fit in" when he says something like "the eggs is cracked" or isn't he exactly the sort of man you would expect to "uphold proper speech". You really don't expect me to believe he's just using the "in/cool/hip" way to speak? Don't make me laugh! –  McGurk May 25 at 0:58

They're definitely improper, but they're often considered acceptable in very informal situations.

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OR in different dialects, even when they speak formally. –  McGurk May 24 at 18:22

The first two aren't grammatically wrong, they just don't say what people typically mean when they say them.

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If by that you mean they must be understood as double negatives, I would disagree. –  McGurk May 24 at 18:23
    
Seems fairly clear cut to me. Not sure how you disagree. –  Tanath Jun 3 at 22:50
    
Because in AAE as well as other dialects of English, the sentence: "I don't want no fries" Is actually 100% exactly equivalent to: "I don't want any fries" You probably aren't realizing that "any" is a negative tag marker in "negative" contexts, exactly as "no" in the first sentence above. –  McGurk Jul 12 at 15:50
    
I think standard English is assumed here, and the status of AAE seems debatable. If double-negatives imply the opposite in AAE then that doesn't bode well for it. –  Tanath Jul 16 at 20:32

"I can't have no money" - This is an example of negative concord which is common in African American Vernacular English. Its meaning is not emphatic, the extra negative words actually agree with the first negative (n't in this case) just like "any" in a standard English sentence: "I can't have any money"

I don't know about "Do you want them tomatoes" specifically but it seems like "them" is replacing "those" which isn't too crazy.

The important part is that there's no such thing as speaking "incorrectly" if you're a native speaker. Native fluency is the definition of your language, anything a native speaker says intentionally (not mistakes) is acceptable.

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They aren't proper English, no. If you think about:

I don't have no money.

it actually means 'I have money'; it's an example of a double negative, and as such means the exact opposite of what the speaker wanted to convey.

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Sure, in standard English it would be a double negative. This is not the case in the dialect, however. –  McGurk May 24 at 18:22

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