Log in

No account? Create an account
12 August 2009 @ 05:40 pm
Hypothetical question (in that the relevant conversation took place probably 10 years ago)  
Suppose someone writes something in a public forum. Anything, it doesn't really matter.

Suppose I respond by saying, "That's kind of ambiguous. I think you mean XYZ, but it could also mean UVW or even RST. Could you clarify, please?"

Suppose the person did mean XYZ.

Is that person justified in saying, "If you understood I meant XYZ, the original statement was not ambiguous and you're just showing off"?
Current Mood: curiouscurious
The Evil Twingrey_evil_twin on August 12th, 2009 09:50 pm (UTC)
No, they're being a dick. If you can see two other meanings, then the statement was not clear.
Stormy Weatherororo on August 12th, 2009 09:50 pm (UTC)
If you weren't certain if XYZ was meant, then the statement was ambiguous.

and nobody has the right to be an asshole, which I firmly believe the "showoff" comment is an example of.
Xiphias Gladiusxiphias on August 12th, 2009 09:51 pm (UTC)
No. The person would be justified in saying, "Yup, you got it the first time; I did, indeed, mean XYZ."
une idee fixeideealisme on August 12th, 2009 10:13 pm (UTC)
I would put him into the BZQ category - i.e. a crank who should be completely ignored.
redneckgaijinredneckgaijin on August 12th, 2009 10:14 pm (UTC)

Hope that's not ambiguous.
Johnjohnpalmer on August 12th, 2009 10:16 pm (UTC)
Well... justification's a funny kind of word.

I can say this: given the situation as described, the person was wrong - you weren't showing off.

But sometimes, even mild not-quite-criticism can flick a person on a raw spot and they can over-react, or misunderstand your intentions. And whether the person is justified in feeling you were showing off, and whether the person was justified in saying that, are more difficult questions to answer.
of beets and bicycles and borsht, and CSS and code: spiritual guidancegh4acws on August 12th, 2009 10:26 pm (UTC)
all natural languages
are ambiguous.
New-speak is not.
I believe that the ambiguity is the strength of language - enabling us to talk about the (yet ) undefined and vague.

On the other hand I have no clue how ambiguous the original statement was.
Even simple statements can be. " Earth is flat"
1. true belief
2. Ironic
3. locally true ( in Kansas or Cologne )

QKat: Ping Pong Kitty by fusion lovesyouladyqkat on August 12th, 2009 10:32 pm (UTC)
Reminds me of a quote that was common in my family: I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but what you heard was not what I meant.

When a statement leaves itself open to other interpretations, confirming intent or asking for clarity is not "showing off", but stating that the questioner is "showing off" is rather harsh and judgmental.
nightshade1972nightshade1972 on August 12th, 2009 10:39 pm (UTC)
I believe ladyqkat and ororo are correct. If the statement *could* be interpreted a couple of different ways, and you ask for clarification so that the meaning is *clear* to you, that's not "showing off", that's you trying to fully understand the other person's POV. "Showing off" would be doing something to deliberately make the other person look bad. Maybe that's what they meant--they thought you were "trying to make them look stupid" by asking for clarification.
Genetypographer on August 12th, 2009 11:27 pm (UTC)
Justified in saying? Sure...

Correct? No!

Suppose I post to a forum, "Rain is falling."

And suppose you and I are still members of a now defunct fannish project in which one of the characters was named simply, "Rain." And the forum is a place where writers of said project discuss plot points... and sometimes just share chit chat.

If you ask me to clarify, "Do you mean that water droplets are descending from clouds in the sky, or do you mean that the fictional character we've both written about has fallen in some way?"

It doesn't matter which I meant, each one is a possible interpretation in the context where I said it. So it is kind of ambiguous. The fact that what I meant and your first guess may be the same is just a matter of chance.
arsmitharsmith on August 12th, 2009 11:53 pm (UTC)
I think I remember this conversation, or many like it.

My initial response to this was "No, and the person is just being an asshat," just like everyone else. Then I did some logical hair-splitting and came to an interesting conclusion. Consider:

Person 1: ABC

Person 2: Your statement is subject to several interperetations. One is XYZ, another is UVW, and a third is possibly RST, concievably there are others. I think you meant XYZ, is that the case?

Person 1: I did indeed mean XYZ. Since you came to that conclusion, my statement was not open to several interpretations and you are trying to socially dominate me by demonstrating your cleverness.

There's several shades of meaning lost in the translation, but I'm pretty sure I caught most of the important ones and made them more overt. Now, what's interesting here is there's a statement, a question about the statement, and an answer, and then a *completely new statement*. Actually, two of them. I can concieve of circumstances in which that second statement (or two) might be justified, logical sparring for the sake of logical sparring for example, but unless I actually was just showing off, I would be perfectly justified in turning around and saying "Since I had to ask you if you meant XYZ, UVW or RST in order to determine how I was going to respond, your statment was too ambiguous. If you want less of these questions you should pay more attention to your audience when you communicate, meathead." (You might want to leave off that last word, or even that last sentance).
arsmitharsmith on August 12th, 2009 11:55 pm (UTC)
ObEdit: that should be "was to ambiguous" not "was too ambiguous". Thank god this is a written forum.
Shadow/Brookekengr on August 13th, 2009 12:11 am (UTC)
Short response, no.

Longer response, they could be justified if the alternate meanings were quite a reach. If they are "not unreasonable" interpretations, then they are being a dick about it.

Knowing you, I find it highly unlikely that they have any justification.
Peter Engdornbeast on August 13th, 2009 12:23 am (UTC)
I'd say that the other person isn't justified in saying so. I wouldn't call the other person on that, but I wouldn't feel that the other person had any right to respond in that fashion.
Barbrahirah on August 13th, 2009 02:03 am (UTC)
It sounds to me like the original poster is being a tad defensive and snippy. Maybe more than a tad.
~M~je_reviens on August 13th, 2009 03:36 am (UTC)
Not justified. They "think" it meant XYZ but it could also mean the other things and they are not sure.

Rather than showing off, they are expressing interest.

Then again I have a grad school professor who constnatly writes XYZ that could also mean ABC or LAJKDSJDFKASJ and it's a constant frigging crap shoot if I will get his meaning.
Stephen Harrissweh on August 13th, 2009 03:38 am (UTC)
Depends on the likelyhood of people assuming UVW or RST. If 99.9% of the reading population would assume XYZ and you're not reading *censored newsgroup* (where digging up potential misinterpretations is a way of life) then it's possible that, yes, you are showing off.

Notice the conditional statement in my answer.

Basically "it depends". You haven't provided anywhere near enough data for a random third-party to make a reasonable evaluation.
The Mad One: Shhh I want to finish the chaptermadfedor on August 13th, 2009 07:30 am (UTC)
This would also provide a lesson in question phrasing. Don't disclose what you think it might mean, let alone list the possible meanings you considered.

That way, if the answer you receive is "XYZ, you doofus" you will likely have some people criticizing that answer before you get a chance to.
Ayoub™ayoub on August 13th, 2009 10:06 am (UTC)
Nope, the person isn't justified, but they will anyway.
Ayesha: frescobrowngirl on August 14th, 2009 06:37 am (UTC)
My answer is 'no' as well, but I'm going to disagree with all the other commenters as I explain.

There *are* times when people do what that responder accused you of doing. For instance, in a discussion I said something about being a liberal, and another person asked if that meant I supported driving the Aboriginal people of Australia off their land (a policy of the government self-titled Liberal at that time). Being me only younger, instead of simply saying 'no' I played into their hands by flipping out, but they did set out to provoke me. I can see such an exchange having been intended to provoke or to show off or otherwise meanly.


I cannot see it having been so intended by you, nor can I see you even implying it. I can't see it having been intended as showing off by you because you don't pull crap like that, and I can't see it as having been even inadvertently implied because you're better with language than that.

So, in your specific case, my answer is 'no, they were not justified.'
piranha @ dreamwidthpir_anha on August 14th, 2009 08:20 am (UTC)
Re: Hypothetical question
yes, this. :)