So I'm facing the said sentence in the following quote:

Dear cat, your ears are flipped inside out, so I know you’re not listening to a word I’m not saying.

So I'm wondering whether the double negation is implying litotes or intensification here. I believe it would be the latter, but I'm not so sure due to the complex usage of double negation in English.

The quote comes from the book "99 Cents For Some Nonsense", also appearing in the book "How to Argue With a Cat", both of which written by professional native writers. A (yet another native) translator is mentioned for the first book, but the source and target languages aren't so clear.

  • 1
    Your text isn't something a native speaker would ever be likely to say, so there's not much point in asking what that particular "double negation" might be intended to imply. Commented Feb 14, 2020 at 19:02
  • Might be more likely as "you're not listening to no word I’m saying." Commented Feb 14, 2020 at 19:09
  • It is always best to say where the quote comes from. Commenters can, however, use Google, and maybe should. The sentence is from a book called "99 Cents For Some Nonsense" by Jarod Kintz, who was born in Salt Lake City, and has an English degree from the University of Florida. I think that means he deliberately chose the words he wrote. The book is a collection of humorous whimsical short remarks, which, as the title suggests, are not to be taken too literally and seriously. Look for poetic meaning. Consider that cats are often said to not listen to a word we are saying. Commented Feb 14, 2020 at 19:12
  • @MichaelHarvey Yes I should've mentioned it, I edited the post. Thank you.
    – user108882
    Commented Feb 14, 2020 at 19:21
  • "So I'm wondering whether the double negation is implying litotes or intensification here." I would say intensification. Cats are well known for their indifference to human speech compared with dogs. Not only does the cat not listen to what you are saying, furthermore, it does not listen to what you are not saying (it ignores equally your speech and your silence). Commented Feb 14, 2020 at 20:46

1 Answer 1


This is a joke.

It is fairly common to say "You're not listening to a word (that) I'm saying". This is an intensification of "You're not listening to me".

The writer has humourously inverted. There isn't any point arguing with a cat. They don't understand, and even if they did, they would ignore you. You can try to train cat as you would a dog, by rewarding good behaviour (ie not saying but doing) but cats don't follow training like dogs do. They don't listen to a word you're not saying. They equally ignore speech and silence.

It is whimsical and gently amusing, but not laugh-out-loud funny.

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