Jan. 9, 2019

Sentence 009 Let the cat out of the bag.

009 There is no room to swing a cat.

There isn’t a room to swing a cat.

There isn’t no room to swing a cat.

There isn’t room to swing a cat.

Leslie: Which of these sentences is the worst?

Kriszti: For me, the worst is ’There isn’t no room to swing a cat.’

L: Why?

K: Because it’s double negation and it reminds me to Black Slang in the Bronx. Double negative is sub-standard English. It is understandable, but still incorrect outside the Bronx.

L: So, we can say that it is locally correct and communicative; a sort of language identification of a group of people.

Which one is also incorrect?

K: ’There isn’t room to swing a cat.’

L: Why is it incorrect?

K: It contains a singular noun ’room’ and it is without an article. That is wrong.

L: I agree with you. Is there yet another one?

K: I think that the other two sentences, ’There is no room to swing a cat.’ and ’There isn’t a room to swing a cat.’ are grammatically equally correct, but …

L: I couldn’t agree more. But …

K: Since I don’t really know the meaning of these sentences, I cannot really tell what is wrong with either of them.

L: Let me help you. One of the two sentences is neither really about a ’room’, nor a dance ’swing’, nor even a ’cat’. It is about a very crowded place; about a space that is like a tin of sardines.

K: Then it must be ’There is no room to swing a cat.’ I dont’t have any ideas about the other one.

L: You are right, and I don’t have any idea about the meaning of the other sentence, either. That sentence is not idiomatic and it is really about a ’room’, about one of the multiple meanings of ’swing’, and about a ’cat’, and as such, it doesn’t make much sense. Because of this, it is wrong.

K: Then it is a grammatically correct but meaningless sentence.

L: You are right; it shows that grammatical correctness is necessary but insufficient. A sentence must make sense as well.