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"As a geek I could not have not noticed the error in your calculation."

This is how I would say this in Slovak language, is this correct in English? If not, what could I use instead?

EDIT: The expected meaning should be: Because I am a geek the error in your calculation was immediately apparent to me (even without focusing on it).

  • What is it supposed to mean? Does it mean you are a geek and weren't able to notice something? Does it mean that you aren't a geek but even if you had been a geek you wouldn't have noticed? Please explain how this sentence would be used. Can you give a scenario? – chasly from UK Nov 4 '15 at 21:32
  • Please see the edit, I did not realise it may not be clear to everyone. – daniel.sedlacek Nov 4 '15 at 21:41
  • Look everyone, it's a correct use of a double negative! I did not fail to not notice. – cobaltduck Nov 4 '15 at 21:50
  • Well, I read straight past the double-negative without seeing it. That is because it isn't idiomatic in its present form. I see the intention though. I'll write an answer. – chasly from UK Nov 4 '15 at 21:53
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How about:

As a geek, I couldn't help but notice the error in your calculation.

Captures the notion of noticing an error without specifically looking for one. It also has a very "soft" impression, because you (presumably) don't want to sound like you're criticizing when you announce such a correction.

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Better would be

I would not have failed to notice . . .

or, still better,

I would not have overlooked . . .

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One possible alternative would be:

As a geek I could not fail to notice the error in your calculation.

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"As a geek I could not have not noticed the error in your calculation."

When I read this I completely missed the second 'not'. The reason is that it wouldn't be said in precisely that way. I suggest:

[Speaking] as a geek, I couldn't not notice the error in your calculation.

It is important to emphasise the 'not' because it would be strongly emphasised in speech.

You could also stick closer to your original with a slight change in the word order but it would be less likely and less idiomatic:

As a geek, I couldn't not have noticed the error in your calculation.

I'd point out the new positioning of the 'not'.

  • I disagree that it wouldn't be said in that way. It's awkward, casual, perhaps colloquial, but I wouldn't be entirely surprised to hear it. Someone I know was once told, when asking whether it would be possible to skip one leg of a multiple-leg air ticket, "you cannot not fly." – phoog Nov 4 '15 at 22:26
  • @phoog - Did you actually read my answer? I didn't say a double-negative is incorrect. I simply said the OP's version isn't quite right and gave an example of a more idiomatic version. – chasly from UK Nov 4 '15 at 22:28
  • Yes I did, and I've re-read it, and I stick by my comment. – phoog Nov 4 '15 at 22:30
  • In that case, what point are you making with your example, "You cannot not fly"? That is perfectly normal and I wouldn't criticise it in the least. – chasly from UK Nov 4 '15 at 22:31
  • It seems equal to "could not have not noticed" except for the fact that the tense is different. – phoog Nov 4 '15 at 22:40
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It is correct in informal speech, at least, and fairly idiomatic. But you must put emphasis on the second "not" --

"I could not have not noticed ..."

And, of course, in written form the "not" will likely lost to the reader if not bolded (though this reader noticed it the very first time through).

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