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A Quick Question [linguistics foo]

This one's really much easier, I swear it.

Again, I ask you to tell me if you're a native or non-native speaker and not to look at anyone else's answers before you give your own.

Lily, the princess of the realm, is given her choice of rings for her birthday. She can choose any of them she wants, and she can choose more than one if she wants. (Basically, she gets whichever one(s) she wants - it's good to be the princess.) Several dwarf smiths have spent the year working on rings of exquisite caliber. They present Lily with a garnet ring, a moonstone ring, an opal ring, and an onyx ring.

The head dwarf smith, Hoggle, is fairly sure he knows Lily's taste in rings. He says (rather snootily), "If Lily chooses the opal ring or the onyx ring, I'll run naked around the castle."

Lily comes in, sees the rings, and chooses both the opal ring and the onyx ring.

Question 1: Is Hoggle going to be running around the castle sans attire?

Higgle, another dwarf smith, goes to the king to report on which ring(s) Lily chose. Higgle, however, is a dwarf with a tricksy streak. He says to the king: "Lily chose the opal ring or the onyx ring."

Question 2: Is Higgle misleading the king?


Nov. 1st, 2004 08:00 am (UTC)
Alright. I'll answer this one. English 'or' is ambiguously exclusive. It can mean "one but not the other" or "one or both". Strictly, the first usage is more common, but both are valid (and most people don't even think about what they are saying ;). It would be valid to interpret these statements either way. However, since Hoggle didn't specify which he meant, the only honorable (to say nothing of desirable) thing to do is to run around naked.

Previous questions are very similar in their ambiguity. I note that someone who gives incomplete or ambiguous information cannot without more context be called a liar. The question becomes one of intent. Someone who is confused, unclear, ambiguous, or all three (^.^) is not said to be lying, even if the information is not strictly true. Intent to mislead is key. I feel the tricksy of this Question 2 includes that intent, assuming the narrator is not misleading the readers. ;)

(Native speaker and computer programmer.)

*hugs* :)


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Jalen Strix

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