Date: Tue, 11 Oct 1994 09:01:35 EDT


Subject: Re: Name that syntagm

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 was I dere, Charley? No.

Larry Horn