Date: Thu, 16 Nov 1995 16:33:45 EST
From: Larry Horn LHORN[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]YALEVM.CIS.YALE.EDU
Subject: Re: Fw: HUMOR: Thought for Wednesday, Nov 15, 1995 (fwd)
Here we go again. Some of you will remember this exchange from not that long
[ADS posting, 11 Oct. 1994]
Relevant true story: At a major international conference, a pompous
speaker droned on and on to a packed crowd. After what seemed an
eternity, he finally built to his point, declaring: "In English, for
example, there is not a single example of a double positive which means
its negative." At this point, the noted Princeton philosopher, Saul
Kripke, rose from his seat near the back of the audience and shouted;
"SURE, SURE!" The speaker has not been seen much since.
-- Jim Beniger
University of Southern California
prompting this response:
I don't know if the story is apocryphal, but I've always heard it cited
(including every time I have talked about "logical" double negation before an
audience containing philosophers) along the following lines:
[Speaker] "...and while two negations often cancel out to an affirmative,
there is no known attestation of two affirmatives reducing to a
[Sidney Morgenbesser, in a loud sotto voce] "Yeah, yeah."
I've come across the same anecdote a few times in print since including it in
my 1989 book "A Natural History of Negation" (p. 554) and in my 1991 CLS
paper "Duplex Negatio Affirmat...: The Economy of Double Negation" (plug,
plug) and each time the attribution was to Morgenbesser. From what I've heard
of Morgenbesser, master of the rapier-like counterexample through many decades
at Columbia, and what I know of Kripke, the standard version of the anecdote
appears more likely. But vas I dere, Charley? No.
Since then, it's made the e-rounds a couple of times and appeared, in two
different version, in the Times "On Language" column, once introduced by
Safire and once by someone else. Neiman-Marcus cookie recipe, move over!