Some passages in English reverse the field repeatedly and get you coming and going. This, for example, was a front page headline in the New York Times a few years ago:
FEDERAL JUDGE EXTENDS BAN
ON END TO AFFIRMATIVE ACTION
Is that good or bad?
Two wrongs don’t make a right. Three lefts sometimes do. I once thought you could sort out switchback expressions by charting each positive and negative reference as a “Yes” or a “No” and then counting them up. To wit,
ON END (no)
TO AFFIRMATIVE (yes)
This would give the “yes” vote a 3-2 majority, so the ruling would favor affirmative action. But if “affirmative action” is taken as a single, redundant affirmative, then the tally is even at 2-2. So much for that theory..
I yearn for a simpler time when, as James Thurber recalled it, his enigmatic friend Christabelle (who had promised her butler that she would write him into her next novel as the uncharacter of a nonbutler) would respond to someone’s assertion by saying,
“That’s not unmeaningless.”