Early on, we’re taught not to use double negatives when speaking and writing. It is confusing and slows down discourse when used. The usual culprits include, “I didn’t hear nothing.” “I didn’t see neither of the two people.” The double negatives indicate the opposite of what the speaker apparently meant to say.
Later, when I began to read old books, I often encountered double negatives. They were evidently an element of literary style. “He was not unattractive.” Of course, the mind must stop reading for a moment to figure out that the author really says, “He was attractive.” Groucho Marx sometimes resorted to using triple negatives. One of my favorites is, “I cannot say that I do not disagree with you.” This diplomatic sentence, of course, means, “I disagree with you.”
I still find “legitimate” double negatives to be awkward, but I do acknowledge that they can be powerful when used very sparingly. Used skillfully, the double negative is a good way to drive home a point. When overused, they make the writing thick, sluggish, and very unpleasant to read. I generally err towards not using them, but not necessarily today.
Because today is National Opposite Day, celebrants might be guilty of using double negatives as we play around with language and actions. It shouldn’t not be uninteresting to find out how the day unfolds.
Evidently, Opposite Day was invented by contrarians. January 25th is the usual date for the event, but the historical date is supposedly the first Tuesday of each month. I’m not averse to observing something each month. I don’t deny that I’m not a contrarian, so today as Opposite Day might not be disagreeable for me.
I’ve been told that National Opposite Day was designed with children in mind. If we purposely must think to do the opposite of our usual habits, we become more aware of our thoughts and actions. In other words, today is not an inefficient teaching tool.
Often, Opposite Day celebrants stress eating and foods. Today, I began the morning with dinner. Tonight, I plan on eating a bowl of oatmeal and some fruit.
Clothing is another item that can be used for Opposite Day fun. I laid out white trousers and a favorite Hawaiian shirt for this cold January day’s ensemble. I wonder how long I’ll remain dressed this way. I’m not displeased that National Opposite Day doesn’t happen on July 25th.
The beauty of Opposite Day is that kids and adults can view the world in a different light. There are various kinds of people and there are numerous practices and cultures that people have. Opposite Day is an opportunity for us to walk in the shoes of someone else.
I’m reminded of one of the practices during the ancient Roman Saturnalia, role reversal. On one of the days of Saturnalia, the masters played the role of the servants and the servants played the role of masters in a limited way.
It’s not uninteresting to ponder how we define opposites in our culture. There are the obvious pairs. There is light and dark or black and white. Cold and hot or cool and warm. More controversial are ugly versus beautiful and right versus left.
What good is Summer without Winter and vice versa?
Magnetic forces of positive and negative have proven that physical opposites attract, but does this also apply to human relationships?
Do rich people actually discover and accomplish more through their access to wealth; or are less prosperous people more industrious by needing to practice economy and a simpler lifestyle? This is not to say that it is moral to pay workers subsistance wages.
What about vanity and humility? One weakens character, the other strengthens it. Should both be used in moderation?
Are many people afraid of androgyny because it represents the flowing relationship and nature of people rather than easily defined opposition? Is it really about female versus male?
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is the thinking behind Karma. Right doesn’t exist without the contrast of wrong. What is good without bad? One doesn’t exist without the other. Inequality and peace do not coexist. The same goes for injustice and love.
The wisdom teachings tell us to neither insult nor praise. If one receives either, take it with a grain of salt.
It is taught that the opposite of love is indifference, not hate. It’s also wise to think about the contrasts between pain and joy, control and freedom, chaos and calm, sadness and happiness.
Positive thinkers see opportunity and benefit with change. Negative thinkers see difficulty and fault with change.
To screw up your adversaries, just do the opposite of what they expect of you. The opposite of bravery is not cowardice but conformity. But isn’t cowardice the same as conformity?
Are there opposites of wise sayings?
Breathing requires intake and outflow, stop that cycle and there will be no life.
What about quiet versus noise?
Why are overlook and oversee the opposites of each other?
Once in awhile, right handers should use their left hands and southpaws should use their right hands. Do this and carefully observe how you feel.
What other opposites, serious and light, can you come up with today?