Double Negatives

Got a question from the Peanut Gallery. Jose writes:
It is correct to say: “I do not have any interest on what is happening on Chicago’s downtown,” or it is two negations in one sentence? Should it be “I do have any interest on what is happening on Chicago’s downtown”?  What I am trying to say is that I do not care what is happening in Chicago’s downtown.

Well, Jose, “I do not have any interest” is OK. It is not a double negative, and it does convey the idea that you don’t care about the topic at all.

“I do not (or don’t) have no interest” — that would be a double negative, and literally it would mean that you do have some interest.

This reminds me of the movie Blazing Saddles where the Mexican guys talk about Sheriff’s badges: “Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!” That would be a double negative, not grammatically correct.

It also reminds me of one of the funniest (and most politically and grammatically incorrect) SPE paper titles ever (SPE 38611): “Proppants? We Don’t Need No Stinking Proppants!”

One more little thing about your request, Jose: the correct expression is to have an interest in, not on. I don’t know why; it’s just one of the many vagaries of the English language.

Follow-Up Email:
After receiving the above response, Jose sent me the following thanks:
GREAT!!! You are supper!!! Thanks so much for a nice and clear explanation. I really like your emails every day.

I’m SUPPER?? Apparently Jose is a cannibal, so if my Writing Tips of the Day suddenly stop, you’ll know where to start looking for my bones.

——————————————————
Funniest Oilfield Name Ever:

Woollybutt field, offshore Western Australia, operated by ENI.
Did you know it is also the name of a native Aussie eucalyptus tree with fibrous bark?

3 Responses to “Double Negatives”

  1. Rhonda Says:

    Another weird Australian tree/bush name that can beat Woollybutt is Snottygobble! (see here for details and pictures: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persoonia_longifolia)

    And yes, there are some weird names of oil and gas fields off the Western Australian coast. There are also some weird names of ore fields in the Goldfields and Pilbara regions of Western Australia, such as Siberia, which, not surprisingly, is located in a really hot place!

  2. Bill Denning Says:

    “One more little thing about your request, Jose: the correct expression is to have an interest in, not on. I don’t know why; it’s just one of the many vagaries of the English language.”

    I wonder if Jose might be from the Philippines. Filipino English is a bit different from American English . . . there, a husband who is obstructing his wife’s path in the kitchen might be told, “Move! You’re on my way!”

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