An answer to the stackexchange question I've just been bitten by a rattlesnake; how, exactly, do I “keep calm”? includes the following advice:
The trick is to not try to tell yourself not to think about the bad things1, but instead tell yourself to think about something else. Tell yourself to think about what you need to do now to get proper care and treatment. Tell yourself to think about what you will do to celebrate your recovery. Tell yourself to think about something mundane, like your job or your favorite TV show or that hobby project you've got going.
and has the footnote:
1Look everyone! A double negative used properly.
Does the term "double negative" have a formal definition? (It seems to have a tag at least.) If so, is this one? If so, is it used properly?
From what I recall being taught quite a long time ago, a double negative is the negation of two words in a row, or nearly so, with the intent of a single negative. For example
That's not no proper way to negate.
That's not a proper way to negate.
In my original, quoted snake-bite example above, a negation is used twice, and it is used intentionally both times to arrive at the intended meaning. As helpfully pointed out below, The Oxford Dictionary Online says:
- A negative statement containing two negative elements...
1.1 A positive statement in which two negative elements are used to produce the positive force...
The first does not specify (to me at least) if the desired outcome is positive or still negative, and the second mentions "positive force" but I don't think it means the double negative is intended to result in a positive result. Rather I think "positive force" means a positive emphasis on the negative statement.
At this point I've gone way past my limits of understanding of the English language in the hopes that it demonstrates an honest attempt at doing research into the question. While I'd love to understand if there is more than one kind of double negative, I'm primarily asking about the quoted phrase.