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Yes, It Isn't
I look up from my reading and address my mate here in self-isolation: “Are you done with that section of the newspaper?”

She does not look up, but answers, “No, I’m not.”

That effectively ends our discussion, and I’m pretty sure I know what she meant by her response. But it leaves me dissatisfied. “No, I’m not”? I don’t say so, but I can’t help thinking that this is wrong. Shouldn’t her answer in this instance be “Yes, I’m not”? Her answer featured a double negative, as I see it, and such usages bring with them a cloud of imprecision.

I must tread carefully these days, however. We all must. We are cooped up (or, if you prefer, locked down) with one or two or three people during this time of social distancing. Those same one or two or three people are with us constantly. For this reason, it seems wise to maintain strict standards of civility and personal space. After all, we are going to be here for awhile.

Keeping the peace, it seems to me, is vital to the continued keeping of the peace. And yet, there it was again today. I ask my cellmate, “Have you decided if we should we go pick up some groceries today?” She answers, “No, we should.”

I don’t want to be picky, and I wisely decide not to be. If I had decided otherwise, my suggestion to her might have been that a better answer would be, “yes, we should.” My rationale for this hypothetical edit, as it was in the first instance, would be the pursuance of absolute clarity. Surely, no one could quarrel with that.

Just in case she might, however, I refrain from commenting. As I say, peace itself is at stake. When this crisis is finally past, though, will I resume my quest for linguistic precision?

Yes, I will.

Please Note: Tim Eagan will read your comments but he is currently not publishing them.

Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon