2

"It's too late to change the plan now," Harry told Hermione. "We haven't got time to send Charlie another owl, and this could be our only chance to get rid of Norbert. We'll have to risk it. And we have got the invisibility cloak, Malfoy doesn't know about that."
They found Fang, the boarhound, sitting outside with a bandaged tail when they went to tell Hagrid, who opened a window to talk to them.
"I won't let you in," he puffed. "Norbert's at a tricky stage –– nothin' I can't handle."
When they told him about Charlie's letter [Charlie’s friends can carry the little dragon away from Hogwarts to his place], his eyes filled with tears, although that might have been because Norbert had just bitten him on the leg.
"Aargh! It's all right, he only got my boot –– jus' playin' –– he's only a baby, after all."
The baby banged its tail on the wall, making the windows rattle. Harry and Hermione walked back to the castle feeling Saturday couldn't come quickly enough.
(Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)

Is the bold-faced part a double negation or the dialect of ‘I can’t handle anything'? I guess semantically the latter is more probable, but I can’t be sure.

  • Which would you suppose, knowing that Hagrid is about 3-4 times the size of a regular person, extremely tough, and is obsessed with caring for all sorts of dangerous creatures, and that Norbert is a baby dragon that Hagrid managed to acquire? – AJMansfield Jul 26 '13 at 19:36
6

That bold part is in fact a double negation, meaning that it is not a thing that I am unable to handle, or, positively expressed, I can handle this.

  • Does 'it is not a thing that~' mean 'it is a zero probability that~'? – Listenever Jul 26 '13 at 13:03
  • 1
    Basically, yes. But not necessarily literally zero, depending on context. It depends on how confidently expressed. And of course, if someone says "There is no way that ...", he might turn out to be wrong. – Jay Jul 26 '13 at 13:10
  • @jay, Can there be negation after ‘there is no way that’. For example, ‘there is no way that I can’t handle.’ – Listenever Jul 26 '13 at 13:23
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    @Listenever — yes, you can use negation like that. Indeed, in English you can use multiple negation (not just double), but of course it then becomes hard to understand. – Paddy Landau Jul 26 '13 at 17:42
  • "There is no way that Fred will not fail to do it." Yeah, it's getting confusing, will Fred get it done or not? – Jay Jul 26 '13 at 20:00

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