Mama Didn’t Raise No Fool


I once saw Erykah Badu in concert, at a northern California stop of the second Lilith Fair. She was beautiful and graceful and elegant and regal, and she put out some killer live music.

She did not, however, take off her clothes, as she did while filming a music video in Dallas last month. According to the New York Daily News, Erykah walked through the plaza where John F. Kennedy was shot in 1963, disrobing as she walked and finally falling to the ground while the sound of a gunshot is heard.

Whatever each of us thinks of Erykah’s music, politics, or art, I think we can all agree that someone didn’t pay enough attention in English class, as evidenced here:

“The City attorney’s office and the Dallas Police Department has decided to charge the entertainer known as Erykah Badu with disorderly conduct,” a police spokesman said.

“After much discussion we feel that these charges best fit her conduct when she disrobed in a public place without disregard to individuals and small children who were close by.”

Let’s graciously ignore the silly use of individuals and small children here for a moment and focus on the real crime. When the police spokesperson says, “without disregard,” what is he or she saying? Yes, it’s our old nemesis, the double negative. Disregard means without regard. If the police department accuses Erykah of being “without disregard,” it is accusing her of being “without without regard.”

Please also note that one does not have regard to something or someone, but regard for. If the spokesperson had been thinking while he or she spoke (hey, isn’t that a spokesperson’s job?), he or she would have said, “…in a public place without regard for…”

Full story here.

One thought on “Mama Didn’t Raise No Fool”

  1. If a word or structure is used frequently enough it becomes correct usage. When people speak this way it could be a mental lapse or a portent of another linguistic shift. But I don’t want no trouble so me-sa gonna follow currently accepted rules of American English without disregard for putting food on my family.

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