Are there any (nonstandard?) varieties (dialects/registers/styles) of English where "does not X" can mean "does the opposite of X", either in general, or specifically for the transitive verb qualify, meaning "to make/declare qualified"? For example, where "A does not qualify B for C" could mean "A disqualifies B for C"?

As a native speaker of American English, I'm pretty sure that this is not how negation works in standard American English. But I'm aware that in other languages (and 'lects) negation can work in different ways. And there's at least one verb in standard English that can negate like this: "not accept" can mean "reject". For example:

The journal did not accept your paper for publication

can be understood to mean

The journal rejected your paper for publication

I'm wondering about the word qualify because a recent public statement from Killer Mike included the phrase

a uterus doesn't qualify you to be president

and the reactions to it indicate that some people understand "doesn't qualify" to mean "disqualify" there. Some people seem to be saying* that to them, that phrase out of context means "a woman cannot be president", and needs more context or words to mean "not all women are qualified to be president". But this would only be the case, far as I can tell, if "does not X" meant "does the opposite of X".

So, are there any dialects or registers of English where "does not" can mean "does the opposite"? If so, in those varieties, is this its usual meaning or is it ambiguous?

*I've purposely said as little about the controversy as I felt necessary to ask my English question. Anyone interested in the event should research it before forming conclusions. In particular, I'm not asking about what was meant by Killer Mike's statement, or how people happened to understand it, unless that's relevant to answering my question above.

  • 5
    Sounds like some people simply misunderstand the statement. "Doesn't qualify" means that it takes more than a uterus to become President. To say that having a uterus "disqualifies" you from becoming President means that if you have a uterus, you can't become President. Broken down like that, it's easy to see that the meanings are very different. – Kristina Lopez Feb 17 '16 at 20:04
  • I am not aware of any situations where the two would mean the same thing. Can you offer an example? The meanings, as Kristina Lopez stated, are quite different. – M. E. Feb 17 '16 at 20:23
  • @M.Z. My question started with an example. Is there some way I could make that example clearer? My understanding is the same as yours and Kristina's, and that is why I'm asking this question—apparently a number of other English speakers have a different understanding, and I'm seeking to understand that. – Dan Getz Feb 17 '16 at 20:41
  • OK. Let me put it this way, @Dan: that example, "a uterus doesn't qualify you to be president," does not mean 'disqualifies.' It means, as worded, that having a uterus doesn't necessarily qualify one to be president. But it doesn't mean disqualify. – M. E. Feb 17 '16 at 20:49
  • 4
    To answer your question...in no varieties of English does "doesn't qualify" mean "disqualify". – Kristina Lopez Feb 17 '16 at 20:51

Kristina Lopez is right: There is no variety of English in which "doesn't qualify" means "disqualify".'

To make this clearer, replace "a uterus" with "being a woman".

"Being a woman does not qualify you to be president". (The intent of the speaker probably was "being a woman does not automatically qualify you to be president.")

This is obviously not the same as:

"Being a woman disqualifies you from becoming president".

Or, to take another example: to be President of the United States, one must be at least 35 years old.

"Being 35 years old does not (automatically) qualify you to be president."

It should be obvious that this does not mean:

"Being 35 years old disqualifies you from being president".

| improve this answer | |

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.