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Is there a rule about double negations that aren't meant as double negations (e.g. “We don't need no education”)?
“I give nothing to no-one” or “I do not give anything to anyone”

(a)  "I ain’t gonna give nobody none of my jelly roll."

Is (a), the title of one of the odder songs in the Armstrong discography, equivalent to (b) below?

(b)  "I am not going to give anybody any of my jelly roll."

  • 1
    Related to the point of almost being identical: I give nothing to no-one
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 11:23
  • 2
    I find your instruction about downvoting condescending at best. If you want people to believe you have put in research effort, then show your research. Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 11:25
  • 1
    It's perhaps worth noting that jelly roll here means "genitalia" or "sexual intercourse". Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 11:54
  • @GarethRees: 'means'? Maybe a double entendre, but 'means' means that when you replace one with the other, the situation doesn't change (not much at least). "Mister Donut Man, how much for that jelly roll?"
    – Mitch
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 12:47
  • @Mitch: for "means", substitute "is being used with knowing reference to its slang meaning," if you insist. Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 13:02

3 Answers 3


Multiple negation has been a feature of English for centuries. Modern Standard English does not allow it, but it is found in other dialects, as your example shows. In dialects where multiple negation occurs, the strength of the negation increases with the number of negatives.


For what it's worth, the "jelly roll" referred to here is sexual slang of the early-to-mid 20th century. It refers to the female genitalia and is extended, via synecdoche, to mean a female sexual partner in general, and the song title suggests that the singer is not going to give anyone else access to his woman.

1. the female genitalia
2. a sexual lover
Slang and Euphemism, Richard A. Spears, 1981

Now you know where early 20th-century jazz and ragtime musician Jelly Roll Morton got his name.

The "Ain't gonna [verb] nobody" or "ain't gonna [verb] no" is a hallmark of rural American and African-American speech dating to the 19th century and picked up wholesale especially in blues. White America began to borrow the construction with the advent of rock 'n' roll, which borrowed much from the black blues singers of the 1930s onward. Cf. the 1964 Rolling Stones hit "I Can't Get No Satisfaction."


Yes, you have translated well the vernacular version to a standard version. There are multiple vernacular items here that are prescribed against by elementary school teachers and broadcasters (and most GenAmE speakers follow the standard version). But many of these will be used in very informal situations (and are more likely to appear in SouthernAmE and AAVE). They are:

  • ain't - a very informal contraction of "am not" but also used for all other persons and numbers for present negated 'to be'.

  • gonna - a very common contraction of 'going to' (in even standard AmE).

  • nobody, none - two consecutive double negations. Double negation isn't just two negation words in the same sentence (that can often be perfectly logical). The term is used for the corresponding two negation words where the standard English would say, for the negative of "I want some cookies", namely "I do not want any cookies", the corresponding vernacular of the negative version is "I don't want no cookies", where the 'no' is the second negation word. Taken literally and logically, this might be taken to mean 'the state of having zero cookies is annoying to me'. But language is not logical or literal. It's just a grammatical way (which here means well-formed in the vernacular; it does not mean well-formed in the standard) to express a single negative. Both 'nobody' and 'none' here are separate and form a 'double negation' (meaning just one negation) separately with the 'not' on the verb.

Oh yeah, and 'jelly roll' is a metaphor for some sex thing.

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