Custom Search

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Perils of Pedantry

For the second time this week, I found myself talking about a couple of things that had me struggling to answer. Not because I didn't know what I wanted to say, but because the questioner wanted a one word answer, and I couldn't bring myself to give one.

The questions were, in essence, "do you believe in UFOs" and "do you believe in aliens?" The answer to both questions is, of course, "yes". But an answer that better represented my thoughts would be "no".
A UFO is, as we all know, an Unidentified Flying Object. The key word here is "unidentified". Of course I believe in UFOs; there are countless examples of lights in the sky that weren't conclusively identified. To answer the question that I was asked, though -- do you believe that those unidentified objects where alien spacecraft -- I'd have to say "Of course not, you fucking tool. What kind of gobshite do you take me for?" Depending on how one interprets the initialism UFO1, the answer could be yes or no. The correct answer would be "Yes, but..." followed by a long exposition that, let's face it, no one wants to hear. He who asks a casual question, I think you'll find, rarely wants a detailed lesson in semantics for an answer. However, anything less would be the truth and nothing but the truth, but hardly the whole truth.

The same applies to the other question: Do I believe in aliens? Again, I've no doubt whatsoever that the universe is teeming with life; the probability of our being alone is damn close to, if not exactly, zero. Equally, it's beyond question that those EBEs aren't visiting earth and sticking alludium probes up our arses. Beyond question for rational humans, at any rate.

Some day, I'll learn to overcome this pedantry and just answer the question that they want answered, rather than the question they actually asked. Some day. For now, though, I'll continue using "Yes, but..."


1. Or acronym. The Japanese, if anime is to be believed, pronounce it as a word


  1. EBE = Extraterrestrial Biological Entity. It's not cool to say ET or alien any more, it would seem.