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What is this actually saying? Written sentence: “This is not a story about wine, well not totally.” The writer means "There's more to this story than just wine." It's a voiceover attempting to be clever about saying this winery has a lot more story than wine. There's people, history, etc.

And is there a much clearer way to say it while still making an attempt at a joke? Or rather than a clearer way, what I think I'm trying to get at is whether or not it is misleading and rubbing the viewer's ear the wrong way because of the seemingly double negative?

Is it more effective to write the dialogue as, "This is not a story about wine, entirely." And cutting the somewhat double negative?

  • What is the source of this quote please. – James K Jan 8 at 20:43
  • It's a voiceover attempting to be clever about saying this winery has a lot more story than wine. There's people, history, etc. – Michael Jan 8 at 20:47
  • So it's not "written"; it's spoken? What is the voiceover on? Is it a documentary about a vineyard? Why do you think there is a joke? Also, note that the comments can be deleted, so it is much better to edit to add details. You see I edited to put your comment in the question. – James K Jan 8 at 21:01
  • A TV promo with voiceover diving deeper into the family and employees around an up and coming winery. – Michael Jan 8 at 21:19
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There is no double negative.

The first sentence contains a literal negative "This is not a story about wine." The second sentence qualifies that with an adverb. The second sentence is made short, but we understand the second sentence to be "Well [it is] not [a story] totally [about wine]" The second sentence contradicts the first if taken very very literally, but as part of natural language it would be better to say that the second sentence clarifies of qualifies the first sentence.

Now, this kind of statement is rhetorical. It uses devices that make it more effective. The speaker begins with a statement that is surprising. This catches our attention. Then the speaker uses a figure of speech called "litotes". He asserts that the video is about other matters by denying it is all about wine. This sounds like the speaker is being humble, relatable, but credible. This is an example of effective use of language.

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As you note, this is intended to be a joke, or at least, a witty remark. Jokes are notoriously hard to analyze. Word something one way and it can be a very funny joke. Say the same thing in different words and the audience may just be left saying, "Oh. I wonder why he did that." Jokes often rely on misdirection: you get the reader thinking you mean one thing, and then -- sometimes a fraction of a second later -- you reveal that you meant something else.

So in this example, sure, it would be more clear if the writer had said, "This is a story that discusses many things. One of the things it discusses is wine, but it also discusses other things." But that would not be funny at all. There is no misdirection and therefore no surprise, so there is no joke.

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The sentence means there will definitely be wine in the story, and that wine will even very likely play a central role in the story, but that it shouldn't be seen as a story only about wine.

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    Just a minor nitpick. Your last sentence would probably be more accurate as "shouldn't be seen as a story only about wine". – C.J. Jackson Jan 8 at 23:52

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