Monday, January 25, 2010

Ambiguous Language 101

George Carlin liked to look at language and point out amusing inconsistencies. In one routine, he mused (slightly paraphrased and edited for our younger readers):

"'Get on the plane,' the attendant said. 'Get on the plane?' I replied. 'Screw you, I'm getting in the plane!'"

Well, over the past 2 weeks I ran a plane-language (ha, ha ha...) poll and got a whopping 13 votes (which would be almost all of my readers!). The question was:

"You're getting on a bus or a plane. There are two seats on one side of the aisle. The person you're with says she wants to sit on the outside. What seat does she want?"

The possible answers are aisle or window. Much to my surprise, I was significantly out-voted on this one 9 - 4 (or, well, 9 - 3 if you don't count my own vote!) in favor of the aisle. This is not something I look forward to admitting to my wife, who insisted that she clearly wanted the aisle seat when she said she wanted to sit on the outside.

I've conducted this survey with a number of people in person, and it seemed to almost be a male/female split in responses. May have just been a coincidence at the time, but it's certainly an interesting question to ask a group of people, if for no other reason that you're almost sure to get different replies and yet have everyone be rather certain that they're right. Of course, it's purely a question of perspective - are we talking about the outside of the seating arrangement (where one seat is against a wall and the other free to move), or the outside of the plane?

I'm going to put up another poll today and run it for a week - will be interesting to see how this one goes too. :)

Poll Results:

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