Saturday, 21 May 2016

Boss the SPaG

You know you're taking it all too seriously when Bruce Springsteen makes you think about SPaG (Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar) tests...

'The Boss' onstage at Camp Nou, Barcelona, 14.05.2016.
Well, OK, I'll be honest, it wasn't actually during the concert that this thought crossed my mind (but it's still worrying).

I had 'The River' on in the car and 'Hungry Heart' was playing. These lines caught my SPaG-infested attention, 

"Everybody needs a place to rest,
Everybody wants to have a home,
Don't make no difference what nobody says,
Ain't nobody like to be alone..."

Look at the line, 'Don't make no difference what nobody says...'. The logic often used to argue against double negatives is that they cancel each other out, as they do in maths. So, with three negatives in this line (thereby rendering it a negative again), does that make it grammatically correct?
(Shame he goes on to spoil it with a bog-standard double in the next line.)

I expect you'll have guessed that my tongue is firmly planted in my cheek as I do my mathematically-convoluted grammar here. I've never really understood the problem with double negatives. Nobody ever thought Jagger was 'satisfied' when he sang, 'I can't get no satisfaction...' Ditto Diana Ross ('Ain't no mountain high enough'), McFadden and Whitehead ('Ain't no stopping us now'). I always found it interesting that it seemed quite natural to use double negatives, as if they doubled the effect, as opposed to cancelling it out. ('I ain't dun nuffink,' was a regular complaint in my primary school.) It's always seemed to me that there's a major problem with a linguistic rule which is broken so frequently, and with so few consequences (except for the loss of a mark in a SPaG test).

And then I moved to Spain... and was delighted to discover that I'd been right all along. Here, it's perfectly grammatical to double negatives, and they do exactly what we all knew intuitively. They double the effect. So, No tengo means 'I don't have', while No tengo nada means 'I don't have nuffink!'

Here's the tail-end of 'Born to Run' from the Camp Nou... No reason.

Born to Run (finale), Camp Nou, 14 May 2016

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