12 May 2006

Proven: Three Negatives Equal A Positive!

I thought that shocking headline would wake you up out your slumber! No, I haven't taken leave of my senses, I'm recapping the first episode of Never Mind the Full Stops, BBC4's new grammar/linguistic based panel quiz show. I learnt some really interesting things last night. Firstly, did you know that "kicked the bucket" is *not* a euphemism for dead? It is in fact a cacophemism (or dysphemism, your choice). They are both roughly the opposite of euphemisms, the former being deliberately offensive while the bracketed later can be either nasty or humourously deprecating. Probably "now worm food" or "burning in eternal fires" would be a better example of deliberately nasty cacophemisms. Does anyone know what a shandygaff is? It's the full name for a shandy and it was originally made from beer and ginger beer. How about trying to decipher what the expression "Negative Care Outcome (NCO)" means? As if it were uttered from Gus Hedges' mouth, it does indeed mean that the patient has died! Finally, as promised, they showed a stunning piece of literary word play by the often clumsy Boris "that's not my real name" Johnson. On presenting Have I Got News For You he strung three negatives together to get a positive: "I couldn't not disagree with you more". If you missed all this fun you can catch the repeats on Tuesday, only on BBC4 for the moment though.