May 23, 2006

The most powerful person no one has never heard of

According to a U.S. News article by Chitra Ragavan ("Cheney's Guy", 5/29/06):

[David] Addington, says an admiring former White House official, is "the most powerful person no one has never heard of."

There's one too many negatives in that sentence, or one too few. The article's subhead says it the way the the source meant it: "He's barely known outside Washington's corridors of power, but David Addington is the most powerful man you've never heard of."

But overnegation is easy to fail to miss, as we've (shockingly) often observed. [Update -- extra links added 5/18/2007.]

"Negated, or not" (1/21/2004)
"I challenge anyone to refute that this negative is not unnecessary" (1/21/2004)
"Challenge as negation" (1/23/2004)
"Too complex to avoid judgment?" (2/21/2004)
"Who is to be master?" (2/21/2004)
"On not avoiding negatives" (2/21/2004)
"Why are negations so easy to fail to miss?" (2/26/2004)
"Overnegation supererogation" (4/12/2004)
"Another overnegation" (4/27/2004)
"We cannot/must not understate/overstate" (5/26/2004)
"Another overnegation opportunity: yet vs. yet to" (5/31/2004)
"Overstating understatement" (6/22/2004)
"Nothing that cannot impede even by failure" (8/16/2004)
"Rumsfeld overnegates Powell, Powell uses 'fulsome' correctly" (11/16/2004)
"Overnegation alert" (1/11/2005)
"Still unpacked after all these years" (5/17/2005)
"Still upacked: threat or menace?" (5/17/2005)
"The temptation of overnegation" (5/23/2005)
"Things that are rarely better than they normally are" (10/17/2005)
"Never anything but less than precise" (10/20/2005)
"Negation, over- and under-" (12/21/2005)
"On not emerging unscathed" (3/1/2006)
" Not doubting that the door could not be opened wider" (6/5/2006)
" Unlike no other" (7/27/2006)
" It's hard not to read this and not do a double-take" (8/1/2006)
" Been anything so long it looks like not to me" (8/3/2006)
" Overnegation as obfuscation" (8/9/2006)
" Scalar failure" (3/5/2007)
" Everyone was spared no mercy" (3/26/2007)
" Barely missing a chance to overanalyze" (4/1/2007)
" Total undernegation" (4/17/2007)

[U.S. News quote via Andrew Sullivan -- who was focused on the morality of torture, an incomparably more important issue, and apparently missed the extra negation. ]

Posted by Mark Liberman at May 23, 2006 07:49 AM