A World Without

Every now and then I hear some over-dramatic person utter the phrase “I don’t want to live in a world…” which is usually followed with something ridiculous like “…where the Phillies aren’t World Series Champions” or “…where gay people can marry” or “…where there’s no coffee.”

Whenever someone makes a statement like that, I never know what to say. Besides the fact that I don’t think those kind of statements really merit a response, how can I be sure what they are really intending to say? A statement like one of the above can be taken in at least 4 different ways. Let’s examine some, shall we?

Example: “I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no coffee.”

The phrase “I don’t want to live” can mean “I’d rather be dead” or it can mean “I don’t want to make my residence there”. “To live” either means the act of being alive, or to dwell in a certain area. So right there, the first part of the sentence already has two meanings.

Now let’s look at the second piece “in a world where there’s no coffee.” That can either mean a world where all the coffee suddenly no longer existed, or it can mean a world where coffee never existed in the first place. If it’s the later of the two, that’s really not so bad. If coffee never existed you wouldn’t really know what it tasted like and so you wouldn’t miss it. That’s great news, now you can keep on living!

Let’s compare our four different versions of the same sentence:

Original: “I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no coffee.”

  1. I’d rather be dead than live in a world where coffee never existed.
  2. I wouldn’t want to make my residence in a world where coffee never existed.
  3. I’d rather be dead than live in a world where coffee suddenly no longer existed.
  4. I wouldn’t want to make my residence in a world where coffee suddenly no longer existed.

So while the original speaker may have had a very specific idea in mind when they were complaining, four different people may have gotten completely different messages. Never assume that someone will understand your meaning from a “simple” single statement. Whenever there’s a possibility for misinterpretation, Clarify!

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About additionaddiction

My thoughts on life, atheism, science, and the human race

Posted on October 13, 2011, in English, Philosophy and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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