Linguistic analysis in an NCIS interrogation

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2006/04/05 00:54 -04:00, original URI:

The episode title is 'Iced.'

The scene went something like this:

{Tony DiNozzo is playing Tetris on his celullar phone}
Ceasar: So, like, you don't got no.... questions for me?
Tony: That's a double negative.
Ceasar: Huh?
Tony: Don't... got no... is a double negative. It's a non-standard use of two negative words in the same sentence... cancel each other out and create a positive. Actually, in Shakespeare's day the double negative was used as an emphatic, but now it's just considered a mistake. Don't know if that's what you intended. I'm pretty sure it's not. We'll just go with the whole colloquial idiomatic thing....
{refers to his Tetris game} this is hard!
{back to Ceasar} I'm pretty sure you meant 'Do I have any questions?' and the answer to that question is 'I have no questions.' I do have some observations though.... Ceasar... that's an interesting name, obviously derived from Caesar. That was a powerful dude. My name is Anthony; my friends call me Tony, which backwards is Y Not. Anyway...

At this point, Tony manages to make Ceasar lose his temper and reveal a bit more than he intended to. But it was interesting to look at him using a somewhat linguistic criticism technique in his interrogation.... :-)

# Mark Steward on 5 Apr 2006 9:04 PM:

And classical references, of course (Caesar/Antony), both covered in plays by... Shakespeare.  I think they had one bored scriptwriter on that one!

# Maurits [MSFT] on 6 Apr 2006 4:14 AM:

Linguistics professor: In some dialects double negatives are used to reinforce a negative meaning, and in others the net effect is a positive. However, a double positive is ALWAYS used to reinforce a positive meaning, and there are NO dialects where a double positive has a net negative effect.
Student: Yeah, right.

Laura Payne on 27 Mar 2009 1:02 PM:

I love NCIS and I have written a few posts that offer linguistic analyses of the show. Please check them out and let me know what you think.



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