Appalachia Appalachian Dialect

Appalachian Grammar Lesson 12

Appalachian Grammar Lesson 12
Today’s grammar lesson is about double negatives. I believe I was in 9th grade the first time I heard a teacher explain double negatives and discuss how they are commonly used throughout Appalachia and the southern states in general.

Appalachian Grammar Lesson 12 2
Double negatives occur when the speaker uses 2 negative words in a sentence. Such as:

*There wasn’t hardly any hot water left when she got through taking a bath and I had to take a cold one.

*We set out there 2 hours and I never saw nothing.

*I haven’t had no luck coming up with a Christmas present for the girls.

*I’ve not never heard that song before, but I like it.

I heard the same grammar lesson repeated throughout the rest of high school and in my college Composition/English classes as well.

Using double negatives is so ingrained in my speech pattern that I never could wrap my mind around why it was wrong. One teacher even explained, using double negatives in language is exactly like using them in Math 2 negatives make a positive. So according to her the sentence I used above: We set out there 2 hours and I never saw nothing actually means I saw everything but nothing. I finally just accepted the fact that if I wrote a paper for a teacher I better make sure there were no double negatives. As far as erasing them from my speech, that just ain’t ever gonna happen.

Do you use double negatives?

(if you’re wondering about the cooky pictures above-that’s what happens when I leave my camera unattended with the Three Indian Princesses. One takes pictures while the other 2 act silly. If Granny knew Chitter was sitting on her kitchen counter or in her frig-she’d skin her hide.)




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  • Reply
    Vera Guthrie
    November 21, 2018 at 2:12 pm

    This parking lot ain’t not never full, as me and a friend pull into our favorite BBQ place.

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    November 26, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    Double negative? Not nary a one!

  • Reply
    November 26, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    Ain’t nothing wrong with double negatives. You should have told that teacher that Shakespeare used double negatives and he never did nothing but write good English. The rules of grammar were made up a long time after people started talking to each other and they got along just fine without them.

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    November 26, 2011 at 11:44 am

    Yes, I use them, and now I know why. I’m from Appalachia!

  • Reply
    Mama Crow
    November 25, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    Not quite a double negative, but I love this one between Gladys and Annelle.
    Gladys: “Annelle, you strung them beans yet?”
    Annelle: “I BEEN done had them beans strung.”
    love, caws you’re my fav Murpy girl…Mama Crow

  • Reply
    November 25, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    The Rolling Stones “Can’t Get No Satisfaction” Are they frum here too?

  • Reply
    November 25, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    In a world so full of negatives it makes sense use them up as fast as we can. If a double negative puts a smile on somebody’s face it becomes a positive. So if you ain’t gonna use ’em send them to me. I’ll use all I can get and enjoy it.

  • Reply
    Kimberly Burnette
    November 25, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    My speech is just plumb full of double negatives and I don’t let it bother me not one bit!
    The fun thing is that I had to REALLY look carefully at what you had written to figure out the double negative because it all sounded so normal to me.
    In my career, I have written many historical research papers and there must be some little corner of my brain that makes me use proper grammar when writing up research.
    The rest of the time when I write? Goodness only knows what grammar rules I violate! 🙂

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    November 25, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    Tipper—I’m surprised that someone didn’t point out that one of the most widely used double negatives, “I Ain’t Never,” was the title of an immensely popular song. I think Webb Pierce sang it first, but others including Mel Tillis and John Fogarty have recorded it. It contains two double negatives right off the bat—“I ain’t never, no never . . .” (or would that be a quadruple negative?).
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    November 25, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    Double negatives cancel each other out. It’s not that they make a positive, it’s just that there’s no negative or positive, guess just a neuter then. LOL Makes perfect sense to me.
    But if you’re not writing to the Queen, or trying to order a meal, what difference does it make?
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Jennifer in OR
    November 25, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    My little girl just asked me if two positives made a negative, as she’d been learning about double negatives in school (she’s only in 3rd grade).
    I actually enjoy hearing the speech of the south and Appalachia and her double negatives! Don’t change a thing over there. 😉 –but it wouldn’t work anywhere else, it’s only forgiven there.

  • Reply
    November 25, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    Because my mother was an English teacher, things like avoiding double negatives and noun verb agreements were lullabies to her children. But I admit even though I cannot spell worth a darn, I can not bring myself to disregarding some one’s use of noun verb disagreements let alone willingly use one myself… but boy howdy double negatives are one of my favorite ways of being linguistically silly, and drivin’ my ma nuts, even though she’s long since gone! That and mispronunciation, but you can’t hear those when I write.

  • Reply
    Barbara Johnson
    November 25, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    My Dad used to say “I ain’t never seen the beat”

  • Reply
    Uncle Al
    November 25, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    That was a nice. Ain’t got no…is one I’m guilty of occasionally. I’m sure there are some others too. Guess I’ll be more conscious of them now. And I agree that you-ins may not never be understood if you was to not use them anymore 🙂

  • Reply
    jackie shound ringersma
    November 25, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    @ Don lol I aint never seen math explained like that lol

  • Reply
    jackie shound ringersma
    November 25, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    My favorite that I remember my “Nannie” then my Dad and now me sayin “Well I aint never!!”

  • Reply
    November 25, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    Looks like the Three Indian Princesses are at it again. Now
    don’t you go an tell on them, after all there’s nothing broken.
    Ain’t got nothing to add to the
    double negative thing, some of us
    just talk a little funny. We know
    better but it just feels good!

  • Reply
    Laura @ Laura Williams Musings
    November 25, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    Well I ain’t never used double negatives. lol (Ya believe that don’t ya? lol)

  • Reply
    November 25, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    Ain’t never gonna get me to stop speaking double negatives either. LOL
    I can just see the smile that appears on your face when you download those unexpected pics.

  • Reply
    Granny Sal
    November 25, 2011 at 11:54 am

    Love it! I’m afraid I’m guilty…LOL

  • Reply
    Wayne Newton
    November 25, 2011 at 11:31 am

    Tipper, be careful how you speak so proper; else a body might thank yore actin citified, er prissy. Might say “speakin above yer raisin.”
    The anthology Cathy and I put together of her Moma’s 700+ letters, were impossible for most folks to comprehend, or as I called it, decipher.
    Finally, I figured it out, I had to put my mind in the mode of thinking and hearing Bonnie as she spoke.
    She wrote/spelled a word the same way she spoke it, literally, . Once I grasped that, her letters were so easy and enjoyable to read.
    Thankfully, many of the stories in “A Bunch of Wiregrass”, just wouldn’t work without the colloquialisms.
    I garntee you, some of my friends in these h’yar mountains couldn’t strang a sentence together without them.
    It’s funny how we often write more proper than we speak.
    Bottom line: I have seen, heard, written, and spoken enough of the English language, that I enjoy it just about anyway it comes.
    Words are fun, no matter how they come. Hope I never stop enjoying them.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    November 25, 2011 at 10:31 am

    As to the matter of no hot water, I laugh when people talk about their hot water heater. My question for them is why do they need a hot water heater anyway. If they have hot water, they don’t need to heat it. Right? So, they really need a cold water heater. Right? I get a lot of dirty looks but ain’t nobody throwed nothing at me yet.

  • Reply
    Larry Proffitt
    November 25, 2011 at 10:17 am

    My 3 grandsons just corrected me in the past hour when I asked them what we were going to have for dinner. For some reason they think dinner is lunch. Think I’ll go try some of my double negatives and see if they catch that.Larry Proffitt.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    November 25, 2011 at 9:53 am

    and Jim, sit, set and sat almost always give me a brain freeze…
    We just don’t need to change our Anglish too very much…
    Thanks Tipper…love it love it

  • Reply
    November 25, 2011 at 9:43 am

    I think I try not to use them; one might slip out now and then.
    I bet you have double fun with those girls!!

  • Reply
    Patty Hall
    November 25, 2011 at 9:26 am

    I don’t know that I use double negatives. I’ll have to watch what I say and see.
    I was thinking the same as Don Casada with the ‘aint’ never going to happne”. Hope you and your family had a great THanksgiving.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    November 25, 2011 at 9:11 am

    Tipper—Well! I ain’t never heerd sich foolishness. I wouldn’t never, no ways trifle with double negatives. In truth, avoidance of the double negative is sufficiently ingrained in my mannerisms (which could suggest that I’m over-educated) that on the rare occasion I indulge in one I’m conscious of it even as I speak.
    Now, here’s a tickler for you. In your blog for today there’s an unintentional grammatical slip. It has nothing to do with double negatives. See if you can locate it. Maybe it will help if I give a hint. Think about hens and eggs.
    I enjoyed this, as is invariably the case.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    November 25, 2011 at 9:03 am

    Wow, using double negatives equals a positive, just doesn’t make no sense to me. 🙂
    I don’t think I use double negatives, but I come originally from Hawaii & raised between the Islands & California. So I have other problems… LOL

  • Reply
    Rose C
    November 25, 2011 at 9:02 am

    If you talked the way the teacher would like you to, no one would understand you! Love the pictures!

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    November 25, 2011 at 8:59 am

    Tipper, I am embarrassed for you. Instead of saying:
    “As far as erasing them from my speech-that just isn’t ever gonna happen.”
    wouldn’t it not have been more proper to say:
    “As far as erasing them from my speech-that just ain’t never gonna happen.”
    I beg to disagree with your teacher and the mathematical metaphor (okay it ain’t no metaphor, but don’t never let precision preclude a literate shun).
    Two negatives do NOT always make a positive.
    Consider the four basic operations we learned in elementary school:
    -1 times -1 = +1
    -1 divided by – 1 = +1
    -1 plus -1 = -2
    -1 minus – 1 = 0
    Whether you add or multiply all those basic results, you’re left with zero, so we have to move on to slightly more advanced operations to determine what math has to say about negative negatives.
    The next logical progression in math operations is to consider powers and roots.
    -1 raised to the -1 power = -1
    The square root of -1 is i, and that’s getting a little complex, but the bottom line is that it comes down to i, and i say that, in the balance, a negative negative ain’t necessarily no positive thing, mathematically.
    (I’m sorry – this stuff just happens sometimes).

  • Reply
    John Stonecypher
    November 25, 2011 at 8:46 am


  • Reply
    November 25, 2011 at 8:44 am

    love the silly girls and hope granny does not look at your blog. LOL. in the past I did use the double negatives a lot, now not as much, but you know my story and why i did and now don’t. I can’t hardly remember why I stopped.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    November 25, 2011 at 8:41 am

    I love the pictures. Yes, I grew up using double negatives. They pretty much knocked it out of me by the time I was out of grade school though. Every once in a while I let one slip though. Makes me wonder does a double positive make it a negative??

  • Reply
    Sheila Bergeron
    November 25, 2011 at 8:37 am

    You know girls just wanna have fun.We had a wonderful thanksgiving–so much good food and fellowship with family and friends. We use double negatives here, too in our every day speech. Most of us know the correct way but choose not to use it. It’s like putting our britches on wrong side out.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 25, 2011 at 8:31 am

    Well, Tipper, that’s just the way it is. We talk like country people….because we are country people. Double negatives are acceptable grammar among the people I hang out with.
    I used to work with a guy from upstate NY and every now an then he’d say “Cynthia, your country is showing.” My response was always a big laugh.
    I ain’t never met a double negative I didn’t like. LOL

  • Reply
    November 25, 2011 at 8:29 am

    As a middle school teacher, teaching the use of double negatives was a challenge, especially when attempting to break a childhood habit in students.

  • Reply
    November 25, 2011 at 8:27 am

    I ain’t never used a double negative in my life! 🙂
    I’m the exact same way – my writing and speaking are almost two different languages.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    November 25, 2011 at 8:19 am

    I don’t use no double negatives!

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