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

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    Awesome, a quadruple negative.
    – Orbling
    Commented Mar 3, 2011 at 14:35
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    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."
    – user597
    Commented Mar 3, 2011 at 14:44
  • @Orbling Quadruple negative? You mean you have photographs? :P Commented Mar 3, 2011 at 18:56
  • @Isaac Truett: If these are Eisenhower's photos, I hope not!
    – Orbling
    Commented Mar 3, 2011 at 19:11
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    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. Commented Mar 3, 2011 at 22:49

1 Answer 1


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).

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