"badly miscalculated" — double negatives?
I was taught that one should never use double negatives. But I was also taught that if you do, it can have the opposite meaning.
Example: The box does not contain nothing.
means: The box contains something.
So I heard the President’s speech. Note that he was not the first person to say it because I have also heard several newsmen use a similar expression. When I heard it, it sounded wrong. But I could NOT put my finger on why it sounded wrong. Then suddenly it occurred to me, a double negative!
So here is what I heard...
“Putin badly miscalculated.” or
“He badly miscalculated.”
Since bad is the negative of good and the prefix “mis” makes calculated negative, isn’t this a double negative? I know what they mean. Shouldn’t this sentence be written like so?
“He severely miscalculated.”
Since severe is neither negative nor positive. It just indicates the degree of something.
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I agree a double negative is a positive. Acceptable exception being when being said clearly as slang or for emphasis.
You make a point I've never considered. Strictly speaking, you're correct: to "badly miscalculate" is to do so "poorly", and therefore, "not to miscalculate at all", or "not to miscalculate so severely". However, the word "badly" is used so often from a young age, I think, no one would ever criticize you for using it in place of "severely", which, as you say, is one of degree.
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