August 16, 2004

Nothing that cannot impede even by failure

In the Actionline column in the San Jose Mercury News — the very same one quoted in my previous post — Dennis Rockstroh provides some information about the content of the law governing access to and locking of emergency exits from public spaces:

The law says that nothing "shall be so designed and installed that it cannot, even in cases of failure, impede or prevent emergency use of such exit."

I don't think so! This time I think Dennis has it wrong. We have crazy laws here in California, but not this crazy. To require that nothing be designed in such a way that it cannot (even if it fails) impede use is to require that everything be designed in such a way that it can impede use (including in cases where it fails). That is, the way Dennis has it, under California law you must lock all emergency exits. I don't necessarily think this isn't a case of what we haven't failed to refer to on Language Log as overnegation. Why does my head hurt?

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum at August 16, 2004 06:26 PM