Me: "you told me to text you if I hadn't heard from you"
Reply: "yes have found a whole car to get bits off will call him again now please text again in two"
4 hours later...
Reply: "yes you're a couple of days early but you got the right idea"
Me: "Ambiguous... Wasn't sure if you meant 2 min, 2 hours, 2 days or 2 weeks. So I chose some middle ground :-)"
Reply: "Awesome you should do a blog on ambiguity"
Me: "great idea!"
And here we are!
It's really important that we are clear with the instructions we give to one another. The English language is a complete bitch and most statements are subjective rather than objective purely because of the plethora of multiple meanings english words have.
Simple misunderstanding like the example above have little serious impact on this earth (unless you subscribe the the butterfly effect.)
However there are examples of ambiguous statements that have had severe global consequences.
Picture if you will...
Austria, August 26th 1939.
Adolf Hitler is having a working bee at his Austrian holiday house. There's beer, BBQ and numerous german sausages (take that as you will) The day had been hugely productive, they'd got the landscaping done, planted the gardens and got the deck up. All that was left to do was the love seat for Adolf and Eva and the lovely white pergola they had planned for the back of the section. Never mind, these jobs will have to wait until next weekend.
Anyway, old Hitler was chillaxing with a cold brew talking shite with his buddies (General Franz Halder, chief of the general staff & General Walther von Brauchitsch, the commander in chief). Hitler simply mentioned that he needed to get those "poles" by next weekend. Referring of course to the poles he needed for the pergola, his half cut chums thought he meant "Poles" and set forth to make it happen. The following Friday, September 1st 1939 the two Generals invaded Poland, and the rest is history.
Now, if only Hitler had made himself clear, then millions of lives could've been saved and he may have become famous for his landscaping prowess rather than for being an ego manical, xenophobic arsehole hell bent on world domination.
Picture if you will, Hawaii, December 7th, 1941.
The U.S. Navy are all chilling out on shore leave, not just some of them but the entire Pacific Fleet! Anywhose, the rest of the world is at war and there are certain precautions the Americans have taken to ensure their little corner of the world stays the hell out of it, so they can sit back and profit from the sale of food, weapons, munitions and vehicles. These precautions include numerous lookouts strategically positioned around the Hawaiian islands. During the morning of December 7th it was business as usual, Commander Tosspot was radioing the lookouts as per his daily routine and thought nothing of it when Private Tardo replied to his request for an update by stating "there's a Nip in the air".
Commander Tosspot obviously thought the young private was referring to the ambient air temperature, alas he was not. If young Private Tardo had been clearer with his report then 3124 navy and marine personnel may still be alive, 8 battleships, 3 light cruisers, 3 destroyers and 161 planes would not have been destroyed, not to mention the 4 damaged naval vessels and the 102 planes that were damaged but not destroyed. I guess there is a flip side to that, had the Americans not joined the war then how many millions of others would've been killed in Europe, Africa and Asia, oh but because they did join an estimated 300,000 people have died in Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
AAARRRRGGGGHHHHHHH! Schrodingers cat meets the butterfly effect! there's a mind &%# for ya!
I think I've made my point here. Let's work towards clarity!
If you can think of other examples, (positive or negative) please email them to me or post them as a comment.
Stop and Think!