the following paragraph is from the book Mr. Popper's Penguins page 32:

Mrs. Popper had gone marketing for canned shrimps for the penguin, so that Mr. Popper was alone in the kitchen to explain to the service man what he wanted done to the refrigerator.

The service man put his tool bag down on the kitchen floor, looked at the refrigerator, and then at Mr. Popper, who, to tell the truth, had not shaved yet and was not very tidy.

“Mister,” he said, “you don’t need no ventilating holes in that there door.”

“It’s my icebox, and I want some holes bored in the door,” said Mr. Popper.

They argued about it for quite a while. Mr. Popper knew that to get the service man to do what he wanted, all he had to do was to explain that he was going to keep a live penguin in the icebox, and that he wanted his pet to have plenty of fresh air, even though the door was closed all night. He felt a little stubborn about explaining, however. He didn’t want to discuss Captain Cook with this unsympathetic service man, who was already staring at Mr. Popper as if he thought Mr. Popper was not quite right in his head.

What is the meaning of the bold sentence 'you don't need no ventilating holes in that there door.'?

According to my research on google, this sentence is a double negative, and it means you need ventilation holes in that there door. But according to the response of Mr. Popper, I think the service man is actually questioning Mr. Popper about his decision. So the sentence should be in a rising tone. Is that right?

Also, what is the meaning of 'that there'? Does it mean 'in that door there'?

1 Answer 1


No, it's actually just dialect. "You don't need no ..." is the same as "you don't need any ..." Example:

"Hey!" he yelled. "You don't got no business coming here." (= "You don't have any reason to come here")

So. in this case, the serviceman is telling Mr. Popper that he doesn't need to have any holes drilled into his icebox.

This particular structure is found in both British and American English dialects (with some differences) and is generally considered lower- or working-class. Because it is not standard English, you should probably not use this structure until you fully understand its nuance.

"That there" is also dialect. It simply means that.

"Well," drawled the farmer, "that there mule might be the stubbornest critter I ever did see." (= "that mule is the most stubborn animal I have ever known")

This structure is found in American English dialects of the South and Midwest, and is usually considered rural.

Historical note: Today, "icebox" is sometimes used as a synonym for "refrigerator". However, when the book was written in 1938, people really did have wooden boxes in which they put large blocks of ice, in order to keep food fresh.

  • Thank you for your kind answer and correction on my post. It's really helpful.
    – Henry Wang
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 5:22
  • I can accept 'You ain't got', 'you don't got' is not grammatical to me. Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 7:15
  • @user178049 it's not grammatical. It's dialect, and not uncommon
    – Andrew
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 7:19

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