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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
When I think how we rant on this forum about the lack of editing...

The following excerpt is from an article in New York Review of Books, June 23, 2011 issue. The article is a review of two books on WWI; the author is British author and journalist Geoffrey Wheatcroft.

If the Germans, after the experience of the first half of the last century, and with the knowledge of what their forebears did in the name of Kaiser and Fuhrer, have decided they don't want to study war no more, then that is neither surprising nor, to some of us, a matter of regret.

I'll admit the word forebears drove me to the dictionary, but it is a proper word, used correctly (My American mind wants to say and write, apparently incorrectly, forebearers).

But don't and no? I realize the British are the original owners and sometimes use the language in ways that baffle Americans (like the maddening tendency to make plural entities we Americans consider singular) but I read that as a double negative, ungrammatically executed, that changes the sentence's meaning.

Don't you wish someone--anyone--had struck the don't?

WPG
 
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Correct. As is, it reads as though the Germans want to continue learning war after considering what was done in the name of the forebears. As though they might one day get it right! lol
 

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actually, i read it as a take off of a song lyric "ain't gonna study war no more", so the double negative, while technically wrong, did not annoy me.
 

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I'm English and, unless "don't want to study war no more" is used as part of an informal, jokey tone such as saying something "Ain't all that" (can't tell from the isolated quote) then it is as out of place to us Brits as it is to Americans!

Edited to add:  Or, as people have suggested - as a quote.  However, I'm not familiar with that song and I suspect many others aren't either, so the author should have made some reference to the fact they were quoting a song (unless, I suppose, they were trying to dodge the extortionate rates you have to pay to quote song lyrics!)
 

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"Don't want to study war no more" is a paraphrase of "Ain't gonna study war no more," from the American folk song, "Down By the Riverside."  I think "Don't" is fine in this context.
 

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Ignoring the song, and just looking at it from a clarity and grammatical point of view, it should read:

...have decided they don't want to study war, then...

Or, if the meaning is to imply that they did study war previously, but now aren't, it would be:

...have decided they no longer want to study war, then...
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Zelah Meyer said:
I'm English and, unless "don't want to study war no more" is used as part of an informal, jokey tone such as saying something "Ain't all that" (can't tell from the isolated quote) then it is as out of place to us Brits as it is to Americans!
Like Zelah, I'm unfamiliar with the song. Not knowing who else, besides me, has read the article in question, let me state that if that sentence was an intentional tip of the hat to contemporary musicology, it was glaringly inconsistent with the tone and style of the rest of the article. As a result, it landed badly for this reader. I still cry out for an editor!

WPG
 

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yes, it's grammatically incorrect.  and i think it would have been clearer if they'd put the "don't want to study war no more" in quotes, that might have sparked people's memories. 
 

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I'm a Brit (or expat to be precise) and I didn't find anything wrong with it. "Don't want to study war anymore' has been changed to the informal 'no more' and as has been suggested is possibly a play on the song lyrics. :)
 

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Completely off-topic, but I was interested to find out that originally (hundreds of years ago) in some uses of English a double-negative was an intensifier that made the sentence more emphatically negative.

Back OT, the quote is a bit clunky (the whole sentence is too long) but I can't see how anyone could read it and misunderstand the meaning.

And "forebears" is surely fine? It's a word.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
scarlet said:
yes, it's grammatically incorrect. and i think it would have been clearer if they'd put the "don't want to study war no more" in quotes, that might have sparked people's memories.
Even italicized and footnoted for clarity, it would seem so out of touch with the serious, analytical tone of the piece (it comes in the closing paragraph, BTW) that an editor might consider wielding the red pen.

WPG
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
It's funny...but despite all the insightful posts, that sentence still has the look of a simple mistake to me--one I make about a dozen times a day. I'll rewrite a sentence and fail to delete a now-unnecessary word (I actually did just that in the original post of this thread, since edited).

Surely, you've done that, too... ;D
 

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The wording is not bad English.  It is a very clear reference to the Negro spiritual, "Study War No More", aka "Down by the Riverside".  The song contains the refrain "Ain't going to study war no more".  I would guess Mr. Wheatcroft was assuming a minimal level of musical literacy on the part of his readers.  If he were to render in grammatically correct English the passage containing the reference to "Study War No More", he would destroy the reference and greatly diminish the impact of his words.

The reference is effective, because "Study War No More" is the result of a theological understanding of war as inconsistent with Christian values.  Thus, Mr. Wheatcroft connects early 20th century German history to themes of the Judeo-Christian tradition, accentuating the point he wishes to make.  His reference to "Study War No More" made his entire article more effective, his words more potent.
 

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the only person who knows if it's a typo or a deliberate reference is the author, so we can say whatever we feel, but it really has no bearing on anything.
 

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Connie Chastain said:
"Don't want to study war no more" is a paraphrase of "Ain't gonna study war no more," from the American folk song, "Down By the Riverside." I think "Don't" is fine in this context.
You don't know double (and triple) negatives until you live in the South. Heck, "ain't" is de rigeur, like "Me and Ted is going to the convenience store."
And I love it, I live it, I write it. My romances are filled with "southernisms" and my editor, he/she do question.
 

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GerrieFerrisFinger said:
You don't know double (and triple) negatives until you live in the South. Heck, "ain't" is de rigeur, like "Me and Ted is going to the convenience store."
And I love it, I live it, I write it. My romances are filled with "southernisms" and my editor, he/she do question.
Gerrie, me, too. There was a time I was ashamed of my South-talk (back when I worked for the feds), and made myself quit saying "fixin' to" and such. No more. I love my regional language heritage. It's not only double (and triple) negatives. It's double (and triple) modals. "Could you come help me paint my house Sunday?" "I might could." http://mightoughtashould.blogspot.com/2009/12/triple-modals.html

In my stories, the vernacular of my college educated executives is indistinguishable from that of their less educated neighbors. They can "talk right" when the occasion calls for it, but day-to-day, they talk like everyone else. This is the way it is not only in my novels, but at church, workplace, the Winn Dixie -- everywhere in real life.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Pearson Moore said:
I would guess Mr. Wheatcroft was assuming a minimal level of musical literacy on the part of his readers.
With all due respect, Pearson, I'm going to pretend not to be offended by this remark. It's difficult, considering I spent a good part of my youth playing, despite my whiteness, in the bands of noted Black singing groups, such as The Shirelles and The Drifters (about the 7th revival of this act, without Ben E. King). I think I might have picked up a little something on the meaning and impact of Negro music along the way. Perhaps a bit more than Mr. Wheatcroft.

As to "a theological understanding of war as inconsistent with Christian values", my life experiences beg me to ask, since when? Or, to paraphrase the words of Tim O'Brien, the premiere novelist of the Vietnam War, that's just grad school b.s.

WPG
 

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Lyrics to Down by the Riverside which was the very first thing I thought of when reading the quote.
Down By the Riverside

Gonna lay down my sword and shield
Down by the riverside
Down by the riverside
Down by the riverside
Gonna lay down my sword and shield
Down by the riverside
Ain't gonna study war no more.

refrain

I ain't gonna study war no more,
I ain't gonna study war no more,
Study war no more.
I ain't gonna study war no more,
I ain't gonna study war no more,
Study war no more.

Gonna stick my sword in the golden sand;
Down By the riverside
Down by the riverside
Down by the riverside
Gonna stick my sword in the golden sand
Down by the riverside
Gonna study war no more.

refrain

Gonna put on my long white robe;
Down By the riverside
Down by the riverside
Down by the riverside
Gonna put on my long white robe; Down by the riverside
Gonna study war no more.

refrain

Gonna put on my starry crown; Down By the riverside
Down by the riverside
Down by the riverside
Gonna put on my starry crown;
Down by the riverside
Gonna study war no more.

refrain

Gonna put on my golden shoes;
(ETC)
Gonna talk with the Prince of Peace;
(ETC)
Gonna shake hands around the world;
(ETC)
 
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