Does '!=' equivelent to 'is not'

Derek Martin code at
Thu Jun 19 08:34:22 CEST 2008


On Wed, Jun 18, 2008 at 01:32:28AM -0400, Terry Reedy wrote:
> > >Saying a flat "no" alone, without qualifying your statement is
> > >generally interpreted as rude in English...  

> As a very much native English speaker I disagree that 'No' is 
> necessarily rude.  

I never said it was necessarily anything.  Generalities generally have
lots of exceptions. :D  It definitely isn't *necessarily* rude, and I
didn't interpret Gabriel's message as rude.  I was merely pointing out
that such statements are often interpreted as rude, whether or not
they were intended that way.  FWIW, my post wasn't intended to be a
post at all, but instead a private message to Gabriel.  I guess I
zigged when I should have zagged... ;-)

That said, what he did do, was to contradict a statement which was
literally true, in an abrupt manner.  Lots of people would interpret
this as rude demeanor.  His commentary was spot on, but the way he
went about making it has a tendency to make some (perhaps many)
responees defensive, if not belligerent.  But, if I actually thought
Gabriel was intentionally being rude, I wouldn't have bothered to say
anything, and just deleted all his posts. :)  I don't even think an
apology was warranted...

On Wed, Jun 18, 2008 at 07:01:23AM -0700, Paul McGuire wrote:
> Geez, man, this is Usenet.  If you want rude or condescending, the
> answer would have been "No, you flatulent moron."  Or maybe the
> alarmist, "No! No! No!"

Sure, those statements would generally be considered *blatantly* rude
(but still sometimes may not be, in context).  This does not mean that
less blatant statements are not also rude.  Geez indeed...

> I see the unqualified "No." often on this list, 

I see it lots of places, and maybe as much as 1/3 of the time, I see
it start flame wars.  It seemed clear to me that Gabriel had no
intention of being offensive...  All I'm saying is that if you want to
avoid offending some people unintentionally and needlessly, it's a
good idea to avoid making curt statements, especially curt negative

If the intention is to signal that more is to come, a simple
improvement is to add an elipsis, whose purpose is exactly that:
"No..."  But even more effective at avoiding the appearance of being
rude are statements like "Not exactly..."  "I don't think so..." etc.
They're not even all that much extra typing.

There are lots of times when a simple "no" is exactly what's called
for.  "Do you like dark Chocolate?" "No."  "Are you watching the
Celtics game?"  "No."  Or even, "Is the baby's new shirt blue?"  "No,
it's green."  

Being concise is not the same as being curt.  Tone also plays a big
role, but conveying the appropriate tone of a simple "no" is pretty
much impossible in an e-mail.  In written communication, it should be
avoided like the plague.

> Back in my college days, I would not be surprised for a professor to
> respond "No." 

Sure, lots of professors are arrogant, insensitive jerks.  Does that
make it OK?  But, depending on the context and the professor's tone,
even the situation you describe isn't necessarily rude.  It often

The world is full of Jerks with a capital 'J'.  Imagine if it weren't?
How nice that would be...  But, all I was offering here was a
suggestion regarding how to not appear like a Jerk when one isn't
intending to.

> but as one of the most informed and careful posters on this list,
> I'm inclined to give Gabriel a little slack.

Sure.  But not everyone here knows Gabriel.  Not everyone here has
seen his informed contributions.  Not everyone here has been here more
than a day...  More than a few people have posted on this list
complaining about the sort of responses people provide on this list,
and many such complaints are quite reasonable (though sometimes the
person doing the complaining is himself rather unreasonable, if not
completely bonkers, I admit). 

I am somewhat incredulous that this required explanation...  In the
end what I thought would be a nice little, "hey, avoid this pot hole"
kind of note seems to mostly have generated a lot of silly noise.  I
now retire from this discussion, and crawl back into my happy
lurk-spot. :)


Derek D. Martin
GPG Key ID: 0x81CFE75D

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