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Hello: I am continually fascinated by language because it is one of the greatest mysteries I have encountered during my time on planet Earth.


I try my best to explore the vast array of languages out there, but I am still amazed by my native tongue—English in all of its permutations—so I haven't progressed very far. Let me give you an example: the double negative. Take this sentence:

You must pay $100 to the Farm if you don't show up to the activity without a valid reason.

Double negatives are not new to me, nor is this sentence a big deal; but it caused a sensation in my brain that felt fascinating—like a short circuit, maybe. Matters only became more interesting when I read this in the corresponding Wikipedia article:

In standard written English, when two negatives are used in one sentence, the negatives are understood to cancel one another and produce a weakened affirmative. However, in many dialects, the second negative is employed as an intensifier and should be understood as strengthening the negation rather than removing it.

Boring? Oh well, I am truly amazed, and it is this sense of the amazing that keeps me engaged with copyediting on Wikipedia. I do not have a preferred topic, as I love the random directions that I get pulled in—directions that I would never have taken if not for Wikipedia. I just hope that the diverse planet that I see through these articles will never, ever merge into a uniform beige.

Here is another example that creates a feeling of amazement within me: African American Vernacular English.

And another: paradox.

If that isn't enough: idiom.

Is the English language merely arbitrary, though?

Regardless, I wish I was present when the concept of implicature was first coined by H. P. Grice. Or maybe a "fly on the wall" when Ferdinand de Saussure proposed the concept of connotation?

I really need to read Tom Wolfe's latest book The Kingdom of Speech.