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Confusing Multiple Negatives

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So should we be worried or not?

Prince Charming: You're telling me you don't know where Shrek is?
Pinocchio: It wouldn't be inaccurate to assume that I couldn't exactly not say that it is or isn't almost partially incorrect.
Prince Charming: So you do know where he is!
Pinocchio: On the contrary. I'm possibly more or less not definitely rejecting the idea that in no way with any amount of uncertainty that I undeniably—
Prince Charming: Stop it!

A character deliberately chooses not to avoid using 1 a convoluted series of negatives to trick a certain reaction out of another character. Usually done when the character has literally no reason not to just lie to them, 2 unlike in the page quote where Pinocchio's nose won't not grow if he doesn't fail to evade the truth. 3 No matter how convoluted the question gets, the answer will always be treated as legally binding, despite any reasonable judge throwing half of these examples out.

It's not impossible 4 to make a Stealth Insult with this type of dialogue, by failing to resist not avoiding insulting 5 someone in a way that they're incapable of being unoffended by. 6 Alternatively, as in a Sarcastic Confession, it's not impossible 7 to not promise you didn't do 8 something while not appearing to avoid denying 9 it. This trope is not entirely unrelated to 10 Suspiciously Specific Denial. Also not uncommon 11 where Exact Words isn't known not to be 12 in play. I Know You Know I Know conveys a similar degree of semantic confusion. This is also not dissimilar 13 to No Does Not Avoid Meaning Yes. 14

Finally, it is possible in English for double negatives to convey shades of meaning that positives cannot, as in "unable not to," as not equivalent to "able to." 15


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the Cave Cricket episode of Haruhi Suzumiya, Kyon does this and lampshades it, asking himself how many negatives he just strung together (we counted 6).
  • The ending theme of the Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun anime has several examples. Since the song was sung in Sakura's voice, this may imply her frustration over Nozaki's obliviousness to love. Many Chinese fansubs just use powers of -1 to simplify these lines.
    The opposite of the opposite of the opposite of the opposite of the opposite of fortune
    The opposite of the opposite of the opposite of the opposite of hate, well, the opposite of that
    The opposite of the opposite of the opposite of the opposite of the opposite of the opposite of the opposite of hate is...
  • In Aikatsu!, would-be vampire Yurika Todo "wouldn't not admit to not" doing this.
  • In New Game!, the main character, Aoba, sits with three other employees- Yun, Hifumi and Hajime- in the same cubicle. When Momiji, a new hire to the character team, needs a desk, Hajime worries that she, the only one of the four who isn't part of the character team, will have to move. Yun then remarks that she "wouldn't not be unbothered by" the prospect of Hajime moving, prompting Hajime to ask what Yun is trying to say.
  • In Mirai of the Future, Kun Oota refuses to listen to his future self because of an argument where they keep tacking additional "not"s on. It basically boils down to "Don't say don't say don't say don't say don't say don't say you don't like it!"
  • In Photo Kano, when Kanon finds out Kazuya had yet to take any pictures with the camera his father gave him, she immediately says "Isn't that not a waste?" When Kazuya comments that there was one "not" too many in the question, she responds by throwing two more "not's" in for good measure.
  • Weathering With You: After Hina clears the sky at Roppongi Hills, she tells Hodaka that she might not not not a few times have found what she wants in life, causing Hodaka to be confused as to whether she has or has not.

    Comic Books 
  • Bizarro and Bizarrogirl from the Superman comics are easy to understand, in theory: Bizarros say the opposite of what's true. Some writers don't seem to understand this absurdly simple concept, and have them speak in absurd chains of multiple-negatives, making it impossible to understand what Bizarros are trying to say. On top of that, Bizarro also varies from just backwards to stupid to actually evil, meaning that even if you figure out what he's supposed to be saying, it still might be the opposite of what's actually true.

    Comic Strips 
  • There's a FoxTrot strip where Paige tricks Peter into driving her to the mall by adding several "not"s to her statement ("Do you not want to take me to the mall?" "Yes." "Do you not not want to take me to the mall?" "No.") She outsmarts him by skipping from four to six "not"s.
  • In the July 16, 1990 edition of Peanuts, Peppermint Patty and Marcie have the following phone conversation:
    Peppermint Patty: Hi, Marcie... I just talked to Chuck; he said when you and I were away at camp, he missed me more than he missed you.
    Marcie: Did he actually say that?
    Peppermint Patty: No, he only said it when he was saying he said what he was saying when he said it!
    Marcie: You're very weird, sir.
  • In the 2015-01-01 strip of Zits, Jeremy uses this to trick his mom into letting him go out.
    Connie: Behave yourself
    Jeremy: Don't worry. I'll only not do things you wouldn't not do.
    Pierce: So you can go?
    Jeremy: As long as we're gone before she counts the "nots".
  • In Bloom County, Milo uses this on occasion.
    Milo: Did you say, quote, "I paid them 50 grand to sink Hoffa in the Potomac"?
    Senator: WHAT?!
    Milo: Then you don't deny ever saying that?
    Senator: YES!
    Milo: Then you admit confirming not denying you said that?
    Senator: No! I mean yes! WHAT?
    Milo: I'll put "maybe."
  • A Dilbert strip features the PHB giving Dilbert a document to fill out that features close to a dozen negatives regarding the state of his employment.
    Dilbert: You're trying to trick us into quitting, aren't you?
    Boss: Use ink.

    Fan Works 
  • In The Greengrass Contract Harry claims his hangover is due to drinking massive amounts of (alcohol-free) Butterbeer.
    McGonagall: Then why was there a flask of Firewhiskey found in the library, in the spot where you and Ms. Johnson sat?
    Harry: I don't know, Professor. I don't never believe I wasn't not never going to not drink Firewhiskey. I mean, Butterbeer. Or Firewhiskey?
  • In Powers of Invisibility, Juleka concludes the "You have it worse than I do."/"No, no, your parents are crappier than mine" back and forth between Adrien and herself by telling this:
    Juleka: Besides, even if you don't win the gold in Crappy Parents, which I'm not convinced you don't, everyone has the right to complain.
  • The Unfantastic Adventures of Bizarro No. 1 is set in Htrae and the action is narrated by Bizarro, so double negatives pop up every so often.
    Bizarro-Batman: Ayup. Nobody left except us other Leaguers and Insiders, and about a whole bunch of million Bizarro-Loises.
    Yellow Lantern: Come to think of it, that not be so bad. Hey, Number One...s'pose we don't do nothing about Blue meanies, huh?
  • About Last Night (My Little Pony): One way Twilight corrects Applejack's grammar.
    Applejack: There ain't nothin' ta talk about.
    Twilight: That's a double negative, which means there is something to talk about. Now tell me.
  • Unfortunately Unbreakable:
    Bagman: Potter, you'll have to at least try to go get your wife, or you'll lose your magic.
    Harry: Try, right? I love that word, 'try'.
    Dumbledore: Harry, I'm sure you don't mean what I don't think you didn't meant to not to mean to say.
  • Total Drama Comeback Series: During Chapter 29, the contestants have to blend ingredients and serve them to each other during a gross food eating challenge.
    Chef: Don't break my blenders, you little snot-nosed punks.
    Duncan: (grinning wickedly) Will not won't do, sir.
  • Total Drama Returns:
    Izzy: So we're doing a sacrifice? I nominate Chef!
    Trent: I agree. Let's sacrifice Chef.
    Chef: Shut up! Nobody ain't not sacrificin' nobody!
    Gwen: Wow. A quadruple negative. I didn't know that was even possible.

    Films — Animation 
  • Shrek the Third: Prince Charming interrogates Pinocchio about Shrek's location since Pinocchio, of course, can't lie without giving himself away. Pinocchio tries to twist the truth and worm his way out of the interrogation with convoluted, circular explanations without actually admitting any concrete information such as confirming whether or not he even knows where Shrek is. It seems to be working since Charming can't puzzle out the puppet's meaning, until eventually, Pinnochio's baffling multi-negatives frustrate the Three Little Pigs so much that one of them accidentally blurts it out.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • This trope was played with in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey.
    Bill S. Preston, Esquire: That was non, non non, non heinous!
  • In Little Big Man, Jack Crabb tries to warn Custer about the Indians waiting to ambush him urging him to go down if he's brave enough:
    Jack Crabb: General, you go down there.
    General Custer: You're advising me to go into the Coulee?
    Jack Crabb: Yes sir.
    General Custer: There are no Indians there, I suppose.
    Jack Crabb: I didn't say that. There are thousands of Indians down there. And when they get done with you, there won't be nothing left but a greasy spot. This ain't the Washita River, General, and them ain't helpless women and children waiting for you. They're Cheyenne brave, and Sioux. You go down there, General, if you've got the nerve.
    General Custer: Still trying to outsmart me, aren't you, mule-skinner. You want me to think that you don't want me to go down there, but the subtle truth is you really don't want me to go down there!
  • A botched translation of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring had Saruman claim "He can't not yet take physical form" when referring to Sauron. The creator of the website showing the botched translation baffled over what the double negative meant before promptly giving up.
  • The Clue movie has 3 instances-
    • First, while discussing Col. Mustards "midnight rendezvous"...
      Colonel Mustard: Well, you tell him it's not true.
      Miss Scarlet: It's not true.
      Professor Plum: Is that true?
      Miss Scarlet: No, it's not true.
      Mr. Green: Ah ha! So it is true!
      Wadsworth: A double negative!
    • And then later when the Colonel asks Wadsworth if anyone else is in the house.
      Colonel Mustard: Wadsworth, am I right in thinking that there is nobody else in this house?
      Wadsworth: Um, no.
      Colonel Mustard: Then there is somebody else in the house?
      Wadsworth: No, sorry. I said no meaning yes.
      Colonel Mustard: No meaning yes? Look, I want a straight answer, is there someone else or isn't there, yes or no?
      Wadsworth: Um... no.
      Colonel Mustard: No, there is? Or no, there isn't?
      Wadsworth: Yes.
    • And the later continuation of the above exchange.
      Colonel Mustard: Well, there is still some confusion as to whether or not there is anybody else in this house!
      Wadsworth: I told you, there isn't.
      Colonel Mustard: There isn't any confusion, or there isn't anybody else?
      Wadsworth: Either! Or both.
      Colonel Mustard: Just give me a clear answer!
      Wadsworth: Certainly! *clears throat* What was the question?
      Colonel Mustard: Is there anybody else in this house??
      All: No!!
  • The robot TARS in Interstellar jokes early on in the movie that he could flash a little cue light on his display any time he makes a joke to Cooper. This is mentioned again later on.
    TARS: Remember that as a robot I have to do anything you say.
    Cooper: Your cue light is broken.
    TARS: I am not joking! [beat] *flash*
  • Becomes a major plot point in The Lost Skeleton Returns Again after Chinfa, Queen of the Cantaloupe People, is introduced to the concept of the double negative.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl has this exchange:
    Mullroy: You've seen a ship with black sails that's crewed by the damned, and captained by a man so evil that Hell itself spat him back out?
    Murtogg: ...No?
    Mullroy: No.
    Murtogg: But I have seen a ship with black sails...
    Mullroy: Oh, and no ship that's not crewed by the damned and captained by a man so evil that Hell itself spat him back out could possibly have black sails, therefore couldn't possibly be any other ship than the Black Pearl. Is that what you're telling me?
    Murtogg: [beat] No.
  • Sliding Doors:
    • James, trying to explain that he wanted to call Helen, but didn't:
    James: No, I mean, don't think that I have not called you. I haven't not called you. I mean, I don't...I don't mean I haven't not called you, because that's a double negative, so as to say that I have called you.
    Helen: When did you call?
    James: Well, I didn't. But I... I didn't not call you in the way that you might think I didn't call you. Oh, dear.
    • At the end of the same conversation:
    Helen: Is that a will pick me up or a haven't, not, didn't, might?
  • Zombieland: Double Tap: Tallahassee tells Little Rock, "Don't do anything I wouldn't not do".

  • A linguistics professor is giving a public lecture, and explains that there are some languages and dialects where a double negative makes a positive, and some where a double negative is merely emphatic. But there are no known languages where a double positive makes a negative. And a voice from the back of the room says "Yeah, right!"

  • From Harry Potter: Peeves: "Shan't say nothing if you don't say please." When Filch does say please... Peeves: "Nothing!"
  • In Life, the Universe and Everything, Marvin uses it to compliment Trillian because he's so maniacally depressed that he can't be direct in praise. "That young girl is one of the least benightedly unintelligent life forms it has been my profound lack of pleasure not to be able to avoid meeting."
  • One Clue tie-in book had Mr. Boddy, having suffered a blow to the head, speak in increasing amounts of negatives. Professor Plum decides that an even number of "No"s meant "yes" and an odd number meant "no", when it was clear from context that he just simply meant "no" every time.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, Bilbo Baggins offers a classic example during his birthday-party speech: "I don't know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve!" This intentionally confusing phrasing leaves some of the guests trying to work out whether it amounts to a compliment. He is saying that he doesn't know some of the guests even half as well as (he thinks) he should. And he also likes some of them less than (he thinks) they deserve. So on the whole it is a compliment, though the exact phrasing allows it to be a Stealth Insult against the Sackville-Bagginses, who are present.
  • In Night Watch a major seizes on a young Nobby Nobbs' declaration that he "don't know nothing" to declare that he does know something. His colleague points out that this is true by the rules of arithmetic, but the conventions of city speech indicate that he's just being emphatic.
  • The Duchess in Alice in Wonderland: "Be what you would seem to be — or, if you'd like it put more simply — Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise." note 
  • In a rare example of the confusion helping someone, in Calvin's chapter of Sideways Stories from Wayside School, he is given a note to give to Miss Zarves, who teaches on the nineteenth story. Except there is no Miss Zarves, and with that, no nineteenth story, so he obviously does not even have a note to give anyone in the first place. While he frets over how to accomplish his task, the yard teacher asks him what is wrong, which Calvin attempts to explain. Louis replies back, "You're not supposed to give no notes to no teachers. You already haven't done it." Calvin, thrilled to hear this, goes right back to class, only to learn that the note asked Miss Zarves not to meet his teacher for lunch.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The series "Steak Out With Kix Brooks," they say the following: "There's not a town in America that doesn't have a steakhouse they're not proud of." Being a triple negative means every town has a steakhouse they're not proud of
  • A great example in Workaholics caused more by Adam's lack of intelligence than an attempt to be confusing.
    Ders: Coming in, Trav. We're here to tell you you're about to get a video chat call from the people at Earth Pets.
    Blake: Yeah, I guess they got some surveillance video of a certain executive shooting birds.
    Adam: Hmm, that'd be crazy. And I wouldn't say they didn't like it, cause they didn't not like it cause they loved hating it and not liking it at all.
  • There was a Cheers where Sam tried to use several negatives in a question to get Diane to agree to sleep with him.
  • Jon Stewart's song about Hanukkah in A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift Of All contains one that doesn't seem to work as intended. "I wouldn't know from jolly / But it's not my least unfavourite time of year" doesn't work out positive. Then again, this may be a deliberate subversion.
    • It's more like it doesn't work out either positive or negative, since "not my least unfavorite" doesn't really mean anything. Presumably an "unfavorite" would be anything other than a favorite, so how something can be the least unfavorite is dubious... and then it's not that.
  • On the "Farthingale" episode of Life, Crews and fDani find out that the victim of the week was searching "not for the man not breaking the law, but for the man not not breaking the law." They eventually work it out.
  • An episode of Full House features this back-and-forth leading up to this trope:
DJ: There's a summer study program in Barcelona.
Danny: No.
DJ: I'll get to live with a Spanish family.
Danny: No.
DJ: I'll get to study the language and expand my horizons!
Danny: No.
DJ: Doesn't that sound exciting?
Danny: No!
DJ: So, you're not saying that I'm not allowed to not go, right?
Danny: What'd you just say?
DJ: I don't know I just wanted to get you off that "no" thing.
  • Chuck Noblet in Strangers with Candy, screwing with his students: "All right, anyone who doesn't not want to avoid passing the midterm exam, raise your hand now. ...Okay. Those of you who raised your hands will fail, as you requested."
    • SWC likes this one; there's also Jerri's plaintive "Isn't that not what you don't want me not to do?" to her dead father, and the "moral" of the illiteracy episode: "Maybe it's time to stop not doing what you pretended you can do and can't, and start doing the thing that you can't do, but can no longer pretend that you can."
  • In the Pushing Daisies episode "Window Dressed to Kill", Olive tries to mess with Ned's head by using complex sentences after being on the receiving end of this trope. First, however, she consults a book titled "The Double Negative: What You Shouldn't Not Know".
  • The Thin Blue Line: In "Night Shift" in the first series, a young man Darren uses double negatives when speaking to Raymond. The second time he does this, Raymond ignores the double negative.
    Darren: I weren't up to nothing.
    Raymond: In which case, you must have been up to something. The English language serves you better when you use it properly.
    Darren: You ain't got no right to search me.
    Raymond: Now, there you are wrong. I have every right to search you.
  • The Vicar of Dibley:
    • Alice memorably breaks into a long discussion about butter, which ends in this convoluted line. It's more subtle by the fact that Alice is The Ditz, yet her whole side of the exchange is perfectly consistent, and the smarter Vicar ends up baffled.
      Alice: Well, I can't believe the stuff that is not I Can't Believe It's Not Butter is not I Can't Believe It's Not Butter. And I can't believe that both I Can't Believe It's Not Butter and the stuff that I can't believe is not I Can't Believe It's Not Butter are both, in fact, not butter. And I believe... they both might be butter... in a cunning disguise. And, in fact, there's a lot more butter around than we all thought there was.
    • In another episode, Jim's Verbal Tic leads him to announce over an intercom that "No no no no no parking is allowed in the upper field." Someone mistakes it for this trope, and asks him for some clarification as to whether or not he can actually park there or not.
  • In Al TV, when "Weird Al" Yankovic "interviews" Eminem, he calls him out on a triple negative. "I don't owe nobody in my family nothin"
  • That Mitchell and Webb Look has a scene with a creepy director discussing a nude scene with an actor that gets around to this:
    Dan: I mean, you won't actually be filming my penis.
    Director: Well, there are no guarantees in this business, Dan, but if there's one thing I can say, it's that I'll try and avoid being very unsurprised if your penis doesn't not get filmed and put on general release up and down the land.
  • The Daily Show parodied Barack Obama's use of convoluted speech thusly: "But let me be clear: There's no way I would not unsupport the kind of project that this isn't."
  • Once Upon a Time in Saengchori: After the Almost Kiss between Min-sung and Eun-joo when he mistook her for Bok-soon, he ends the encounter by saying "It's not like that I can't say that I'm not sorry for what happened." Eun-joo is left utterly befuddled.
  • One episode of Horrible Histories had a Roman telling an early Christian she'd be hurled trough the air by a trebuchet by saying that the next person to be tortured was "Not not not not you, so it is you!"
  • Hugh Abbot in The Thick of It: "I categorically did not knowingly not tell the truth, even though unknowingly I might not have done."
  • Sheldon of The Big Bang Theory when he finally asks Amy to be his girlfriend:
    Sheldon: I believe I would like to alter the paradigm of our relationship.
    Amy: I'm listening.
    Sheldon: With the understanding that nothing changes whatsoever — physical or otherwise, I would not object to us no longer characterizing you as not my girlfriend.
    Amy: Interesting, now try it without the quadruple negative.
  • On Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Kimmy tries this on the Reverend. It doesn't work:
    Kimmy: Then why didn't you not un-anti-believe that the apocalypse wasn't not coming?
    Reverend: Because I never did.
    [Kimmy spends a little while thinking this through, then stamps her foot in frustration]
  • A similar language issue occurs during the "Bug Bomb" myth tested by the MythBusters:
    Adam: So I think my faulty wiring of the faulty wiring is no longer faulty, so that it's correctly faulty...."
  • QI features a loaded question for Alan.
    Sandi: Alan, don't you not want some points, or not?
  • In one episode of Soap, Benson reacts to Chester managing to convince Jessica that he is not having an affair (which he very definitely is) with "I have seen dumb luck in my time [...] but I have never, at no time, seen nothing like this!"
  • On the Election Night Special episode of SCTV, the bottle bill is worded in an extremely confusing way, so that it's hard to tell whether or not a "yes" vote is for disposable bottles, or a "no" vote is against returnable bottles, or a "no" vote is against the banning of disposable bottles, or a "yes" vote is against the making of returnable bottles, or, or, or....
  • One of the tasks in Taskmaster involves these:
    Make and wear a popcorn necklace with at least five pieces of popcorn then do the opposite of the following:
    You must under no circumstances not avoid not making the bell not ring.
  • In the Frasier episode "The Wizard of Roz", Daphne has a premonition of danger and asks Niles not to go to Cafe Nervosa. He agrees but goes anyway. When she catches him, he hurts his knee by standing up quickly and hitting it against the table. The following conversation ensues:
    Daphne: How could you come down here? You broke your promise.
    Niles: And my patella.
    Daphne: Well, nothing bad would have happened if you'd paid attention to my premonition.
    Niles: Well, actually, nothing bad would have happened if you hadn't shown up.
    Daphne: Well, it wouldn't have not happened had I not shown up.
    Niles: Well, it wouldn't not have happened if you hadn't not shown up.
    Daphne: And I wouldn't have shown up had I not known that you wouldn't have been able to not come down here.
    Niles: Well, I'm not-not... not... What?
    Daphne: My point exactly — you don't listen.
  • Friends: In "The One With Ross's Grant", Joey gets upset when he finds out that Chandler didn't actually share his audition tape with the advertising company he works for like he said he did.
    Joey: First, you lied, right? Then, you lied about lying, ok? Then, you lied about lying about lying, ok? So before you lie about lying about lying about lying about... lying... (beat) Stop lying!
  • For one game on Impractical Jokers, Q has to get someone to join a protest. He's holding signs that say "DON'T STOP LETTING PEOPLE NOT HELP". Even the other Jokers (who wrote the signs) aren't sure what that means.

  • "If I Never Stop Loving You" by obscure Country Music singer David Kersh:
    If I never stop loving you
    Will you never start wanting me to?
    Say you won't and that's what I'll do
    For forever with a heart so true
    If you'll start and end every day
    Forever never wanting me to go away
    All I'm ever gonna always do
    Is never stop loving you
Later lampshaded subtly in verse 2, which has the line "I mean everything I think I just said."
  • XTC: I'm stupidly happy / No, nothing's not wrong
  • In "1921" from Tommy: "You didn't hear it, you didn't see it, you won't say nothing to no one ever in your life."
  • From The Beatles' "Strawberry Fields Forever":
    Always no, sometimes think it's me,
    But you know, I know when it's a dream,
    I think a "no", I mean a "yes", but it's all right,
    That is, I think I disagree...
  • The chorus of Wes Carr's "You" does this:
    You can have what I got 'cuz I don't got nothin'
    Worth having if I ain't got you
    You can take what you want 'cuz I don't want nothin'
    I'm nothin' if I don't have you
  • The Lemonheads' "Style", a sample lyric being "But I don't wanna not get stoned / So I'm not gonna not knock things down".
  • Minutemen's "Maybe Partying Will Help" has the line "What about the people who don't have what I ain't got?".
  • The Hives' "The Bomb" does this to gradually escalating degrees during the verses.
    What do you wanna do?
    (Get down!)
    What don't you wanna do?
    (Get up!)
    What don't you wanna not don't do?
    (Not get down!)
    What don't you wanna not don't wanna not do?
    (Not get up!)
  • The chorus of Frank Zappa's "You Are What You Is", involving a young white man living like an African-American and vice-versa:
    Do you know what you are?
    You are what you is,
    You is what you am,
    (A cow don't make ham),
    You ain't what you're not,
    So see what you got,
    You are what you is,
    And that's all it is...
  • You ain't seen nothing yet, b-b-b-baby...
  • In "The Neck Rolls Aren't Working" by They Might Be Giants:
    This gut wrench
    I'm using to fix the bad drainpipe
    That's leaking all over my gut wrench
    Is right on the brink of destroying
    My chances
    Of wrecking my chances of wrecking
    Any last hope of destroying
    Any last hope that I had
  • The Catalan song "Jo Mai Mai" (which translates to "Never Have I Ever"), by Joan Dausà, is about a group of friends who decide to play Never Have I Ever. During the game, the singer ends up revealing that he has feelings for a female friend of the group. To which she answers with the following doozy of a line:
    Jo mai mai no he pensat que seria més feliç al teu costat
    (Never have I ever not thought that I would be happier with you)

    Print Media 
  • The satirical article "Babbage: The Language of the Future" by Tony Karp in Datamation magazine described a programming language with "only obvious deficiencies." Instead of the conventional "DO WHILE," it offered several novel loop statements, including the "DON'T DO WHILE NOT" loop, which would be "not executed if the test condition is not false (or if it's Friday afternoon)."
  • The Perl programming language has the "unless" keyword to test for the false value of a condition. This may occasionally lead to convoluted looking code; the book "Programming Perl" written by the language's main creator notes that to avert this trope the "unless" test can't use the "else" keyword to create an alternate branch of the test.

  • In one episode of I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again, the show is introduced thus:
    Hatch: Yes, it's — or if I'm wrong again, it isn't — "I'm Not Sorry, I Won't Read That For the First Time." Which doesn't mean that Tim Brooke-Taylor, John Cleese, Graeme Garden, David Hatch, Jo Kendall and Bill Oddie aren't with you again. I'm almost negative about this.
    Brooke-Taylor: David ... David's flipped again, everybody.
  • Used in The Unbelievable Truth, where the object is to smuggle truths past unnoticed amid a lecture that is mostly lies:
    John Finnemore: It is a myth that it is a myth that crocodiles cry crocodile tears, so it would be wrong to say that they don't.

  • The SpongeBob Musical: Squidward gets briefly confused by his own use of multiple negatives in "I'm Not a Loser".
    Squidward: I'm not a failure
    I don't not have talent
    When others see me they can't see the nobody that isn't there!

    Hold on, that's a triple negative. You can't not see nobody, because I'm not nobody, which can't not be seen... Let me start over!

    Video Games 
  • From The Secret of Monkey Island: "I won't not promise to avoid refraining from harming you."
  • The anti-anti-antidote from the Kingdom of Loathing.
    Description: This is a cup of stuff that will un-un-unpoison you if you get un-unpoisoned.
    Effect: Doesn't not remove poison effects.
  • In Marvel Ultimate Alliance, Thing confuses himself. What he says and what he means are complete opposites.:
    Thing: [The fact that beating up Rhino is fun (don't ask)] don't mean I wouldn't rather have a face that don't look like a gravel road.
  • Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People: When you try to use the lighter on a person, Strong Bad says "I'd love to see him not not on fire, but not not not now."
  • I Am an Insane Rogue A.I. does this in a very sneaky way; in one of the level-beginning speeches, the AI says "Your computer has not not yet been compromised. I promise!" The double-not is just a computing hiccup... right?
  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl had an interesting one on the Smash Bros. Dojo, when discussing the Poke Ball Pokemon "Bonsly." In the original Japanese text, it was averted. But upon translation, a sentence said, "It's not like it can't be reflected." This left many readers confused as to whether or not Bonsly could be reflected, until a fan who could read Japanese told everyone what the original text said. note  "It's not like (you have to do something/you can't do something/etc.)" is a common "it could be worse" type phrase, pointing out that whatever comes after the phrase ISN'T true (in this case, the idea that it's unreflectable is what's being pointed out as NOT the case.) Another way to say the same thing would be "At least it can be reflected." It is, however, a strange context to use such a phrase, leading to the confusion/assumption that there had been a translation error.
  • "A Ghost's Pumpkin Soup," the theme of Pumpkin Hill in Sonic Adventure 2, is essentially Knuckles rapping about (and trying to cover up) his fear of ghosts. One of the lines reads, "It had to be the wind, 'cause nobody wasn't there." So, uh, Knux, doesn't that mean someone (or something) was there? It's kinda-sorta ebonics.
  • Musashi Samurai Legend has a death variation, as Riesling's Pre-Asskicking One-Liner before he and Glogg face Musashi.
    Riesling: "Okay, Musashi! We're gonna kill you so dead, you'll wish you were never born... alive..."
  • Baba is You
    • There is a level where you are given nine "Not" keywords. The point is to use them to make a sentence across an impassable obstacle.
    • The New Adventures! level pack adds a level called "Exactly As It Says" which has the rule "not baba without not hedge is win".
  • In Fallen London this is how people speak of the Discordance, partly out of a way to try and limit its negative effects (by saying what it can't do, because if it could do so it would cease to be Discordance) partly because it's the language of a being that was erased from reality so thoroughly that it's the only way one can actually speak about it.

    Web Animation 
  • Strong Bad Email: Strong Bad sometimes says one of these:
    • marzipan: "Do you don't not dislike not Strong Bad?"
    • english paper: "Can't nobody say Strong Bad never did nothing for the peoples."
  • Red vs. Blue: Sarge utilizes one of these, though more likely because he really thinks that way and is trying to emphasize his point and not because he's trying to confuse anyone.
    Sarge: Okay. And everyone in favor of not doing that thing and leaving her asleep and not getting killed by the person we're not going to wake up because nobody is that stupid, say Nay.
    Simmons: That was like a... quadruple negative.
    Sarge: Just vote!
    Simmons: Nay?
  • OverSimplified: When Hitler discusses invading Poland with the Stalin:
    Hitler: How about we both invade Poland and split it between the two of us, and I definitely won't not refrain from not betraying you sometime in the future.

    Web Comics 
  • Appeared once in Casey and Andy. Casey tries to trick the King of Sweden into leaving their couch by posing him a question with a ridiculous number of varied negatives. The king provides the correct answer without delay, once again proving that you should never underestimate a king. Especially funny considering that the king of Sweden is not known to be the brightest bulb in the Christmas tree.
  • Used in this Sluggy Freelance strip, along with Blatant Lies and Suspiciously Specific Denial (pictured above).
  • Penny Arcade, as part of an attempt to wring some money out of Tycho: "Do you really want to burden them with not that?"
  • In Suicide for Hire, Hunter's father makes a (very successful) attempt to ensure his son's future heterosexuality by giving him a porn magazine and telling him "By the way, I don't not want you not watching not Channel 169 after midnight when we're out of the house."
  • In The Last Days of FOXHOUND, Mantis uses a magnificent one to highlight Ocelot's Double Reverse Quadruple Agent status:
    Mantis: You must spend every day pretending to act like you're falsely letting on that you aren't not unbetraying someone you don't not purport to allegedly not work for but really do! How do you keep all this shit straight without having an aneurysm?
    Ocelot: [shrugging] Practice.
  • Kanaya of Homestuck.
    GA: It Does Not Mean That Teamwork Is What Isnt Taking Place Here
    AA: s0rry i didnt f0ll0w that
  • A weird variation occurs in Freefall: A robot is programmed to not obey non-human orders. Florence orders it not to tell her what she wants to know, and as it's programmed to disobey, it does not not answernote  her question. Then Sam gets in on the act.
    Sam: Robot. Do not treat us as if we were human.
    Robot: Non-huMan inStrucTions muSt NoT be ObeyEd! StaNDing by fOr OrdERs!
  • Scenes from a Multiverse: The punchline of this comic.
  • The 250th strip of 2/0 is full of them. Here's just a portion of it.
    The Author: Orange author, tell me where Mock and Terday are.
    Orange Author: I do not not know where they aren't.
    The Author: So that means you know where they are?
    Orange Author: I have to admit that it wouldn't be stupid to not understand where they aren't.
    The Author: So... You know where they are.
    Orange Author: It would be completely irrational for me to not lie about assuming that i couldn't say where they are not absent.
  • Parodied in 8-Bit Theater, when Fighter and Cleric claim that "You can't help people who aren't on your team" is a double negative, and therefore Cleric should heal Ranger.
  • A massively confusing instance of this in The Order of the Stick, wherein Thog explains (honestly and correctly) to the guard of the city jail everything that went down between Elan and Nale. Unfortunately, he refers to Elan as "not-nale" and throws in enough homophones to thoroughly convolute the explanation.
    Guard: Why don't you tell me what's going on with your buddy Nale here.
    Thog: not nale, not-nale. thog help nail not-nale, not nale. and thog knot not-nale while nale nail not-nale. nale, not not-nale, now nail not-nale by leaving not-nale, not nale, in jail. note 

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation:
    • SCP-61231's anomalous effects make his database entry full of these.
      Discovery and Incident Record: Lack of police reports of "a polite unarmed dollar bill not shooting lightning bolts" on a path away from the Hudson River led to demobilization of MTF Pi-1.note 
  • TV Tropes: The Anti Anti Christ trope to The Antichrist.

    Web Videos 
  • On the Dream SMP, Quackity attempts to invoke this in "The Official Manburg Hotel Building Permit", trying to trick Schlatt into paying child support on top of scamming him out of his presidency. Schlatt, being a savvy businessman, notices this and calls him out on it, claiming that it was a predatory way of writing a contract.
  • Dana in the Echo Chamber episode Dumbass Has a Point initially calls the final intro "not unimpressive", but then corrects herself to "really good".
  • In the Honest Trailers episode for The Rise of Skywalker says that the director has "never seen a landing he couldn't not stick."
  • In the LoadingReadyRun sketch "Canadaman", the evil Jacques François passes out a petition regarding Quebec sovereignty. Everyone who tries to read it gives up and exclaims, "This petition uses ambiguous phraseology!"
  • From Scott The Woz's review of Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash.
    Scott: I would love to find out what happened to this game in the background, but it'll never make it not totally never not bad.

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius: One episode has a now-genius-level Sheen do the "Not Not Not" variant to the teacher in hopes of getting out of class (he does), as does Jimmy to follow him. Later subverted when Carl tries this tactic (involving the word "disexcused"), but the teach simply replies with "PLANT IT!"
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Boy-Scoutz 'N The Hood", Bart is reading a safety booklet on knife use. The first sentence reads "Don't do what Donny Don't does." Each page has Donny doing something ridiculous with a knife, each page captioned "Donny Don't!" Bart wonders why they made it so confusing.
    • Homer attempts this in "Homer the Vigilante", when he tells Kent Brockman with regards to his newly-formed neighborhood watch that "I'd be lying if I said my men weren't committing crimes." Brockman merely stares at him, unimpressed, before muttering "Well, touche."
    • Brother Faith from the episode "Faith Off": "Now correct me if I'm incorrect, but was I told it's untrue that people in Springfield have no faith? Was I not misinformed?" note 
    • The chalkboard gag from "Hello Gutter, Hello Fadder": "I won't not use no double negatives."
  • In "Opposite Day" from SpongeBob SquarePants, when Squidward cleans up SpongeBob's house after SpongeBob and Patrick have turned the pineapple into an eyesore:
    SpongeBob: I don't get it: I made my house a mess which was making it clean, which made Squidward clean my yard, but that really means he's messing it up. But the opposite of clean is filth, which means filth is clean. That means Squidward's really making my yard a wreck, but I'd normally wreck my own yard, which means Squidward's being the opposite of Squidward, which means he's SpongeBob. A-ha! I understand everything now! I must be the opposite of SpongeBob by being... [SpongeBob imitates Squidward] Squidward.
  • Futurama: In "Roswell that Ends Well", Professor Farnsworth tries to warn his staff about the twin dangers of temporal paradoxes and stable time loops: "Don't do anything that affects anything, unless it turns out you were supposed to do it, in which case, for the love of God, don't not do it!"
  • On Family Guy, the man with alternating names who's always cheating Peter tells him "if you'll just sign this contract without reading it, I'll take your blank check and you won't not be not loving your new timeshare in no time."
  • A horror-themed special episode of All Grown Up! uses this as a Running Gag after Tommy lampshades it: Somebody tells the gang a ghost story which ends with a few kids wandering out of the forest like they "don't never got no brain or nuthin'."
  • That Cajun ferryman from the first Scooby-Doo movie, Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island.
    "You ain't never caught Big Mona and you ain't never gonna did!"
  • In one of Woody Woodpecker's 50's shorts, which features Knothead and Splinter, the two of them appear in a scene carrying a long dynamite stick with the message "You can't hardly get them this size no more!" written along.
  • One episode of Gravity Falls features the song "Don't Start Unbelieving", the lyrics of which include the line: "Never don't not feel your feelings!"
  • Early Cuyler from Squidbillies is fond of these.
    Early: Readin's never not done nothin' for not nobody.
    Granny: I think you mean not nonebody.
    Early: Excuse me, not nonebody. Never not no one didn't about no reason, not never, and by God they never ain't gonna will!
  • Steven Universe:
    • In the episode "Message Received", Steven compliments Peridot by saying his initial assessment was right.
      Steven: I was so wrong about being so wrong about you!
    • In "The Question", Ruby goes off by herself after an argument with Sapphire and tries living as a lonesome cowboy. She finds she still misses Sapphire, however, and grouses "Turns out I'm no good at not needin' nobody."
  • The Wonderful World of Disney: Mentioned by Professor Ludwig Von Drake in "Nature's Strangest Oddballs", when he's about to present footage of strange animals.
    Von Drake: Alright, so now you know all about nature's oddballs of long, long ago. But I bet if you came face to face with one of them today, you would say, "There ain't no such animal." But you would be wrong! First, because you was using a double negative and that's bad English. And second, because there is plenty of them around – if you know where to look.

    Real Life 
  • An announcer on a radio station once announced something similar to "Senator So-and-so announced today that he's changed his mind about his decision to attempt to overrule the President's veto of the recent gun ban bill." In other words...
  • This is very common on local resolutions and referenda. Voting "yes" on a public vote always means approving of the resolution, even if the resolution is stating a position against something. This results in very confusing situations where you must vote "yes" to say you don't like something, and doubt as to whether the public really understood the question, which can throw the outcome of the vote into doubt.
    • One community had a vote on whether or not the city's public funds should help pay for a new hotel. But the text of the vote was something along the lines of "Should the city be prohibited from spending funds in this way?" so you actually vote "yes" if you think they should not pay for it... well duh.
    • There is speculation that voter confusion had a part in the passing of California's Proposition 8. The proposition was to amend California's constitution to overrule the State Supreme Court's decision to allow same-sex marriage. A "Yes" vote meant that you were in favor of overruling the Court and therefore against same-sex marriage. A "No" vote meant you supported upholding the Court's decision and were in favor of same-sex marriage.
    • Similar to the California's example, a later Florida vote on same-sex marriage was worded in such a confusing manner that many people didn't know if voting yes was pro-same sex marriage or con.
    • Averted in Massachusetts, where guides widely published before elections detail exactly what each response means, and such information is usually/always stated plainly at the end of the question on the actual ballot, as well.
    • Old joke. A governor has been in charge for so long, people want him out. So he starts a referendum: The "yes" is for him to stay and the "no" is for him to not resign.
    • Even the official United States constitution can get like this, what with "no person who shall not have attained the age of [whatever] and who shall not have been a citizen for [x amount of years] shall be eligible to run for [whatever office]." Makes reading the article annoying.
    • An oddball aversion is occasionally used when someone is trying to confuse a meeting. Consider the following: "All in favor, say 'Aye'." (Those in favor do so) "All opposed, same sign." (e.g. Also say aye, which usually results in a confused muddle from the attendees.) The chair will then rule that 'The Ayes have it', which could mean either side...and go on doing whatever they wanted to.
  • London Mayor Boris Johnson won the 2004 Foot in Mouth award with this gem on Have I Got News for You: "I could not fail to disagree with you less."
  • George Carlin told people, "I'm not unwell, thank you," when asked how he was. It usually took them a minute to figure it out.
  • A comparatively simple example from The American Civil War: Congressman Thaddeus Stevens (R-PA) had been asked by Abraham Lincoln if he trusted Senator Simon Cameron (a fellow Pennsylvania Republican and, for political reasons, Lincoln's pick to be his first Secretary of War); Stevens replied, "I do not believe he would steal a red-hot stove." Cameron, livid, demanded that Stevens "retract" his statement. Stevens promptly did, saying, "I said that Cameron would not steal a red-hot stove. I now take that back."
  • In 1858, Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln had a series of debates for the Senate seat in Illinois. At the Freeport debate, Lincoln asked Douglas if a territory could legally exclude slavery before statehood by popular sovereignty, on which Douglas had based his political career. Knowing that a simple yes or no response could hurt his chances for being elected to the Senate, he came up with the elaborate Freeport Doctrine, accepting the Supreme Court's 1857 decision of Dred Scott v. Sandford, and at the same time, saying that a territory could discourage slavery if it failed to pass laws that kept slaves under control. In Douglas's own words: "If the people are opposed to slavery, they will elect representatives to that body who will by unfriendly legislation effectually prevent the introduction of it into their midst. If, on the contrary, they are for it, their legislation will favor its extension." This enabled Douglas to gain the Senate seat for Illinois note  and proved to be a short-lived victory, as Douglas would lose the 1860 presidential election to Lincoln and eventually die in 1861.
  • After NFL quarterback Brett Favre announced his retirement and then changed his mind three years in a row, it became a common joke for sportswriters to predict his next "un-un-retirement" or similar.
  • The linguistics blog Language Log has quite a few posts about "overnegations" and "misnegations" — sentences where the multiple negatives are so confusing that even the speaker wasn't able to untangle them correctly. This is a good example.
  • The word "nonfiction" can be confusing for young children when they first hear it. "Fiction" means "not true," while "nonfiction" means "not not true."
  • Antidisestablishmentarianism. Basically, being against being against the Church of Ireland/England as the "official" church of Ireland/England. note 
  • You surely know what fascism is, you also surely know what antifascism is. "Antiantifascism" and even "antiantiantifascism" have been used in Germany as, uhm, ideology-laden words, occasionally used by the parties the word have been coined against.
  • In mathematics, adding or subtracting multiple negative numbers can very easily lead to this.
  • Similarly, in programming, multiple negative conditions can become confusing very quickly, and as such are considered poor practice, since it's a programmer's responsibility to make any code they write as easy for future programmers to maintain as possible. Here's an example of confusing logic:
    not(not(state = "Colorado") and not(city = "Denver"))
    • It's confusing because "not" is the negative, so the line of code is saying "not the state is not Colorado and the city is not Denver." To simplify this, you could use De Morgan's laws to re-write the inner statement as a inverted "or" of normal statements rather than an "and" of inverted statements, after which the two negations cancel each other out and you're left with a positive statement. Step-by-step it would look like this:
      not(not (state = "Colorado" or city = "Denver"))
      state = "Colorado" or city = "Denver"

  • In Québecois (French spoken in Québec), it's customary to talk in double negatives for a wide variety of subject without being sarcastic. You feel not bad. It's not hot outside. Things are not far or not close. And your date is not ugly (and that's a compliment...really). For native speakers, it's not confusing, but for French-speaking individuals from other countries, it may sound overly complicated.
  • The suffix -nakereba naranai (なければならない) in Japanese means "must/have to". However, it literally translates to something along the lines of "will not allow (naranai) not happen (nakereba)".
  • Overlapping with Ambiguous Syntax: the sentence "No head injury is too trivial to ignore". It's clearly meant to mean "All head injuries should be taken seriously" but, due to the odd wording, has at least three alternative meanings: that all head injuries are trivial and should be ignored, that not having a head injury is too trivial to ignore, or even that not having a head injury is so trivial you can't ignore it.

    Double negatives becoming single negatives 
Multiple negation (or negative concord), in which negative forms (for example, negative indefinite pronouns such as "nobody," "nowhere," "nothing") appear instead of their counterparts ("anybody," "anywhere," "anything") in negated sentences is a common phenomenon in the languages of the world. In many languages, it's a grammatical requirement; that is, speakers must say "I didn't see nobody nowhere" (where standard English would have "I didn't see anybody anywhere"), and literally saying "I didn't see anybody anywhere" is ungrammatical.
  • Old English allowed multiple negatives for emphasis. "They said that no kinsman wasn't dearer to them than their lord, and they wouldn't never follow his murderer."
  • Non-standard varieties of modern English may allow this for emphasis, following the historical usage, as in "Don't you never, never do that again!" It is required in many varieties of African American Vernacular English.
  • Required in Russian and other Slavic languages. So, when trying to say "I didn't see anyone," you have to say what would be translated as "I didn't see no one." The following sentence in Polish is perfectly grammatical (and, more importantly, easily parsed by a native speaker), despite being unlikely to be used in this exact form: "Nikt nigdy nigdzie niczego nikomu nie zrobił", and means "Nobody has ever done anything to anyone, anywhere" (word-by-word translation being "Nobody hasn't never, nowhere, done nothing to no-one".
  • Romance languages, including Spanish, French, and Portuguese. For example, the Spanish "No te ayudaré nunca" translates as "I won't never help you," where standard English would have "I won't ever help you." "No tengo nada" translates word-for-word as "I don't have nothing" (interpretation: "I don't have anything").
  • Italian can play this straight or avert it. "Non c'è nessun problema/Non c'è alcun problema" both mean "There's no problem", but while "nessuno" implicates a negation and works just like "no one", "alcuno" doesn't and is similar to "anyone". "Non vedo nessuno" translates word-for-word to "I don't see no one" (interpretation: "I don't see anyone").
  • Bavarian, a Southern German dialect group. An example would be "Koana hot niamois ned koa Göid ned g'habt" which is "Nobody has never not no money not had".
  • Many pigdin or creole languages are much more accepting of double negatives than their parent languages, and the double negatives are often the standard way of saying "no".
  • Hungarian. An example: Semmit se csináltam. means I did nothing. / I didn't do anything. but translated word-by-word I didn't do nothing.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Double Negative, Confusing Multiple Negative


Interrogating Pinocchio

Charming tells Pinocchio to tell him where Shrek is. Pinocchio tries to twist the truth and worm his way out of interrogation with excuses. It works, but the confusing negatives cause one of the three pigs to blab out the truth.

How well does it match the trope?

4.93 (70 votes)

Example of:

Main / ConfusingMultipleNegatives

Media sources: