Does it “tell” more than the positive? Is the reduction by twice negating words of positive connotation a lesser meaning — a “softer landing approach” — than to declare it with a single positive note?
Thus, when a parent declares to a close friend or neighbor that his or her son or daughter is “not unpopular”, is it not the same as proudly stating, “He is popular”? Is the double-negative more humble and sound less like bragging? Is the meaning not unclear, or less unlikely, or not incomprehensible? Or, what about a triple negative — say, if a person says that he is not not uncomfortable — is it a more polite manner of telling another that he is uncomfortable, but does each negative remove the bluntness of the root word such that the repetition of negation undoes what the foundation of the meaning provides for?
And how did grammar translate from linguistic insularity to real life? When and how did we learn to speak in such negations? Is it by stealth or cover-up that grammar reflects upon the negation of words, thus transferring such concealment into the language games we play? Do we wear sunglasses to hide our eyes from remaining open as the window to our own souls?
For Federal employees and U.S. Postal Workers who suffer from a medical condition such that the medical condition begins to prevent the Federal or Postal worker from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, the application of the double-negative becomes infused in everyday encounters with the workplace — of needing to use Sick Leave in order to attend to one’s health, but trying to appear well at work so that the workplace barely notices; of trying to remain in corners of anonymity despite feeling the need to be “up front” about it; and of appearing to be “healthy” on the outside and yet feeling the dread of hopelessness on the inside.
The double-negative is too often a reflection upon the way we are forced to live, and for the Federal or Postal employee who by necessity must file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is a reality that must unfortunately be faced every day. But filing is important, and making that decision is a crucial one that must be faced — or, in the manner of the double-negative, it is not unimportant to begin the process of filing something as administratively complex as something which is not incomprehensible.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire