Comment Of The Day: “Trevor Noah’s Critics”

Bravo: a  deft,  quirky and thought-provoking comment about “how difficult writing and reading is and how easy misunderstandings are born”—and my own careless—or not!—phrasing was the writing at issue.

Here is Zanshin’s Comment of the Day on the post, Trevor Noah’s Critics:

Jack,

In the sentence,

version 1. We should respect consistent standards and integrity instead of hypocrisy, not treat them like they are qualifications for sainthood.

I guess you meant expect instead of respect.

version 2: We should expect consistent standards and integrity instead of hypocrisy, not treat them like they are qualifications for sainthood.

And even then, I, with English as a second language, would read ‘ should expect’ firstly as “To consider likely or certain” but given the current climate that is not a given anymore. Therefore, to emphasize the (intended?) meaning of ‘expect’ as “To consider obligatory; require” the following sentence would have been clearer to me,

version 3:We should demand consistent standards and integrity instead of hypocrisy, not treat them like they are qualifications for sainthood.

Flash of insight: By pondering your sentence and rewriting it I realized that your sentence is fine but that I bracketed the sentence in a wrong way; which is made possible given the complexity of two polarities involved in this sentence:

a. consistent standards and integrity versus hypocrisy
b. [treat them with] respect versus treat them like they are qualifications for sainthood

Lets name the different parts of the sentence,

A: [should respect
B: consistent standards and integrity
C: hypocrisy
D: treat them like they are qualifications for sainthood

The bracketing I now think you meant is: { A { B_C } } versus { D }

The bracketing I understood first was: { A { B } versus { C } } versus { D }

But in bracketing the sentence in my way, ‘respect’ felt awkward once reading part D. That’s when I backtracked to A and thought-up ‘expect’. while thinking, “Just another typo by Jack and/or wrongly suggested/inserted word by the word processor.”

Okay, we now understand what went wrong in my understanding but why did I misunderstood it? One part of the answer is, as mentioned above, is that given two polarities in one sentence there are (‘No shit, Sherlock’, as my daughter would say) multiple interpretations possible.
But the other part of my misunderstanding comes from the context of the sentence and points to a minor disagreement with Jack.

I quote (emphasis mine, intended for later use),

The fact that none of his All-Trump-Bashing-All-The-Time comic colleagues, like Colbert, Kimmel, Samantha Bee, Bill Maher and Saturday Night Live lack the integrity to criticize Clinton doesn’t make him a hero. It’s a little like giving a medal to the only soldier who doesn’t run away as soon as the shooting starts.

My thinking is:

When it is normal that all soldiers stand their ground it is true that you should not give “a medal to the only soldier who doesn’t run away as soon as the shooting starts”, instead you should court-marshal those who run away. However, if it is normal, even rewarded that all “of his All-Trump-Bashing-All-The-Time comic colleagues, like Colbert, Kimmel, Samantha Bee, Bill Maher and Saturday Night Live lack the integrity to criticize Clinton” that does make Trevor Noah in my opinion exceptional, an ethics hero.

And by writing the above “My thinking” I realize that I now think you wrote none but meant to write all or, option 2 ,lack but meant have

Conclusion

While formulating version 3 of the sentence I got my ‘flash of insight’ and was about to cancel my comment.
But I came to the conclusion that it gives some insight how difficult writing and reading is and how easy misunderstandings are born.
That’s when I decided to share my full-circle of misunderstanding towards understanding.

 

6 Comments

Filed under Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, language

6 responses to “Comment Of The Day: “Trevor Noah’s Critics”

    • (Sorry, this has absolutely no bearing on the post and I didn’t think it would post so big. But every time I see the Strunk and White guide, I can’t help but recall this hilarious parody)

  1. But…”Charlotte’s Web!!!”

  2. dragin_dragon

    One of the problems with the written word, when there is no environmental context, like a person talking would give, is that misunderstandings are incredibly easy. Unfortunately, the written word does not allow for facial expressions, intonation changes, gestures, or other body language. I suppose I should say that it then behooves us to be exceptionally clear and concise when writing, but humans being humans, that is unlikely. All of us think like we speak. and we tend to believe that when we write it comes across the same way. It doesn’t, always. Then we compound it by putting our own interpretation on what we read, supplying what is missing from our own repertoire, which may or may not be accurate. Which is why I will only question a typo if it contradicts what experience has led me to believe is the meaning of the writer, such as a “not” that I don’t think was intended.

  3. Zanshin

    Thanks Jack, for making me a member of this exclusive (or did I mean to write elusive ?) EA COTD club.

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