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speaking sans negatives. Options
prolixitysquared
Posted: Sunday, May 10, 2009 9:05:58 PM
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Location: pennsylvania.
I remember that one time in an FCS (family & consumer science) course during junior high, the teacher made us complete an assignment in which we were to express certain ideas using only positive (not negative) words to express what were clearly, usually, negative ideas or concepts.

As a result, we were expected to work our way around the negativity in language. I don't remember exactly how this assignment related to the class purpose in general, but maybe it was something to do with communicating well and positively with others ?

For example, instead of saying, "don't forget to do this," we would write "remember to do this." It's a way of expressing the same point twice, but in the latter example, negativity is avoided.

So of course, we had to formulate our sentences without resorting to contractions that involved the origin word 'not' and so on. 'No' was of course a big no-no. Is that a double-negative or a triple, then making it positive again ? Ha !

I think that this concept, even though I don't remember its direct basis, is a good experiment for everyone to try. It can really show you how you might regularly use negative terms and not even know that they're littered in your daily conversations. Plus, speaking in positive-only words is a way to perhaps keep people on your side as opposed to having them irritated with you, in case a negative expression might have been taken as a personal attack.

Did anyone else have similar lessons in school ? Or if not, what is your take on this exercise ? I think it is quite valuable to consider.
Angus
Posted: Monday, May 11, 2009 4:40:54 AM
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What you have described is an example of constrained writing, the constraints being different from those imposed by traditional sonnets, limericks, etc. Some constraints even have names: A passage in which no word would contain the letter e would be a kind of lipogram. Your remark suggests you believe there may be value in writing with self-imposed constraints. Depending on the constraint, this can be very difficult. There is a group – OuLiPo – dedicated to this. I think you should check them out. By the way, to counterbalance your “sans negatives” example, there is a book, Negativeland, by Doug Nufer, in which every sentence includes a negative phrase or clause.
Demonrob
Posted: Monday, May 11, 2009 1:33:48 PM
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prolixitysquared wrote:


So of course, we had to formulate our sentences without resorting to contractions that involved the origin word 'not' and so on. 'No' was of course a big no-no. Is that a double-negative or a triple, then making it positive again ? Ha !


That is something I was going to ask because a tautology where you use a double-negative turns into truth what you are trying to say.

So it is valid to speak that way but i guess the point was not to use negative adjectives at all.

Isaac Samuel
Posted: Monday, May 11, 2009 4:49:43 PM
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Conversation will appear contrived if one were to use only non negative words.I prefer to be congenial to being contrived in conversations.
risadr
Posted: Tuesday, May 12, 2009 11:54:38 AM
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Now I'm curious as to how practical it would be to speak this way. I might try it. Although I think that it might annoy my husband.
prolixitysquared
Posted: Tuesday, May 12, 2009 9:07:50 PM
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risadr wrote:
Now I'm curious as to how practical it would be to speak this way. I might try it. Although I think that it might annoy my husband.


Saying it would annoy your husband, is in a sense, still more positive than saying that he would not like it. Ha.
risadr
Posted: Tuesday, May 12, 2009 10:54:31 PM
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I didn't even think about it. That's pretty amusing.
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