The many ways of not saying something

“I didn’t say that.”

“I didn’t not say that.”

“I didn’t not not say that.”

For every statement made, there are equal and opposite statements not made. There are also statements of varying middling oppositionality that are not made. And, to be sure, there are statements that are not not made. And not not not made.

The difference is intentional. That is to say, it has to do with intentionality. Which is easiest to see when it comes to what is actually said – the speaker intended to use those words that were indeed used. The intention to say them existed, and this intention was acted upon. Clear-cut intentionality.

Not saying something, on the other hand, is a tricky business. Mostly, the difference comes down to whether it was not said intentionally, if it was intentionally not said, or if it was unintentionally not said.

Things that are not said intentionally are usually covered by saying other things. Corporations and their PR spokespeople are good at this kind of thing – they are very definitely not saying that the recent layoffs were made in order to promote the profits of a few remote shareholders who do not even know which continent the local community is located on. They use other words. They use a lot of words that very clearly communicate that they have every intention of saying everything but that.

Intentionally not saying something is related, albeit different. In its most benevolent form, it is refraining from speaking in favor of listening to what someone else is saying. In a more cruel form, it is withholding information in some fashion. Most of the time, it is a general postponement of statement until a more suitable time can be found. There is something to be said, but not here and now.

The last kind is difficult. And obvious. It wasn’t said – whatever it is – because it never entered the mind of the speaker to say it. There never was a possible intention to say it, and thus no possible intention to not say it. It was not said, but it was also not not said.

That goes without saying.

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