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Re: Two wrongs don't make a right?

Posted by Smokey Stover on September 10, 2007

In Reply to: Two wrongs don't make a right? posted by Benno Nathan on September 08, 2007

: What is the origin of the phrase... Two wrongs don't make a right?

The word "origins" in regard to a phrase is always a bit confusing to me. It could mean, when was it first used. It could also mean, how did it get to be used to mean what it means. There is some discussion of the phrase in the archive (back up one page, use the search box at the top of the page). I'm going to offer an opinion which is not backed up by any certain knowledge.

Why isn't this an obvious truism? Why would anyone think in the first place that two wrongs might cancel each other out, thus making it a "right." Just a possibility: English teachers and grammarians have been teaching for eons (well, a long time) that in correct English two negatives cancel each other out, thus leaving a positive meaning. At some point someone may have wanted to impress on someone else (like a schoolchild) that this rule did not apply to examples of negative behavior.

Yeah, very shaky. Perhaps it will inspire someone who knows more than I to come forward.