Learn English – Is “Don’t Nobody/Anybody/Anyone + verb” a double negative


I was reading a passage in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men and a character, a migrant farmer, says of another character's fighting ability:

"Nobody don't know what Slim can do".

And then a little later, a similar statement:

"Nobody can't tell what a guy'll do".

I'm quite familiar with slangy statements phrased like questions, such as: Don't nobody care, or Don't anybody want to hear that, or Don't anyone feel like talking to you, but the reversal of the first two words–which does not seem to change the meaning–sounds off.

My questions are, are constructions like

Don't nobody/anybody/anyone + verb


Nobody don't + verb

double negatives, and, if so, is that why the pieces (don't, nobody) can be moved around without changing the meaning?

Best Answer

"Don't nobody" is a double negative. "Don't anybody" isn't. They are analogous to "I don't have nothing" versus "I don't have anything".

Double negatives occur in some dialects of English, as well as "don't" for the third person instead of "doesn't": she don't come 'round no more.

"Don't anybody" is grammatical in standard English as an imperative:

Don't anybody move! The money or your lives! - "Ma Baker", Boney M.