She was a little, brown, thin, almost skinny, woman, with big, rolling, violet-blue eyes, and the sweetest manners in the world. You had only to mention her name at afternoon teas for every woman in the room to rise up and call her not blessed.

("Three and—an extra", Rudyard Kipling)

I am particularly worried about 'not' in the sentence; Is 'not' redundant, here? As per my limited understanding, people are fond of her and hence bless her occasionally.

I feel it should be - "...and call her blessed."

  • 1
    This example is incoherent and poorly written. I recommend you reword it.
    – user305707
    Jul 30, 2018 at 11:37
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    I understand why you might think there is some grammatical oddity to this sentence, but it's actually not a double negative. "Not blessed" means "not blessed": Kipling doesn't mean "blessed". It's just a complicated way of expressing the idea. An good explanation would actually require some literary analysis, which is not on-topic for this site, but would be on literature.stackexchange.com. I found a note in a Google Books edition of Kipling's works that indicates that this sentence alludes to a verse from Proverbs 31
    – herisson
    Jul 30, 2018 at 11:49
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it confusingly misquotes the source (valid version here). Jul 30, 2018 at 11:51
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    @FumbleFingers: I don't think it is a misquote (although it might perhaps be a quote of a misprint). The sentence seems to be different in different editions, or something like that: you can find it as given in the book I linked to in my previous comment. I can't see the book you linked to, but I'm guessing it uses the wording "every woman in the room to rise up, and call her—well—not blessed"
    – herisson
    Jul 30, 2018 at 11:53
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    ...for every woman in the room to rise up, and call her—well—NOT blessed. She was clever, witty, brilliant, and sparkling beyond most of her kind; but possessed of many devils of malice and... (capitalisation and hyphenation not present in all online OCR versions). Jul 30, 2018 at 11:53

1 Answer 1


It is an example of litotes (or something close to it) rather than a double negative.

As some people have disputed the wording, this is from an online ebook version:

You had only to mention her name at afternoon teas for every woman in the room to rise up, and call her — well — NOT blessed.

(Note: the ebook version uses capitals for emphasis, while a printed version uses italics. But they appear to be identical otherwise.)

He is making the point that the other women were saying bad things about her (cursing her). He does this, euphemistically, by referencing and contrasting with a verse from the Bible (Proverbs 31) where a woman is praised by her children:

Her children rise up and call her blessed

He emphasises the fact that she is not well thought of a couple of sentences later when he says "She could be nice .... But that is another story"

The "— well — NOT blessed" bit to me suggests he (the author/narrator) was about to say something like, "call her whore/evil/cursed" but then decides to lighten it by saying "not blessed".

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    To me, a better link is of a photo of an actual published book (such as this one), because ebook versions also vary in their reliability. If that link spools too long, you can edit out the search string thusly as the desired sentence is at page bottom. Jul 30, 2018 at 14:04
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    I haven't read the full context, but my guess would be that this woman is attractive/interesting to men (which would explain why other women hate her, because they're "outclassed"). So Kipling doesn't want to say she's blessed with male-attracting attributes - but he goes some way towards saying she's cursed by them (not that the woman herself would think that, obviously! :) Jul 30, 2018 at 14:06
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    @FumbleFingers It is a very short story! She is, perhaps, a gold digger. Or at least a flirt. She seems to take delight in "taking" men, even if they are already married.
    – user184130
    Jul 30, 2018 at 14:08
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    @user Thanks for that link. I chose an ebook so I could copy the text!
    – user184130
    Jul 30, 2018 at 14:09
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    Yup, each source has its conveniences. But for the sticklers from places like the Show-Me State, a "photographed" hard copy is better than an ebook version in its own typeset with no visible link to the original. Sorry for repeating myself. Jul 30, 2018 at 14:12

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