# Semantic difficulty

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 1374320.  Fri Feb 12, 2021 10:44 am There is one option we haven't discussed, and that's changing the meaning of "three", perhaps to "the number of... in my house": The number of birds in my house = 30 The number of cats in my house = 9 The number of dogs in my house = 3 That's all perfectly coherent and consistent (although it doesn't solve the puzzle). Another thing that occurred to me is that if you're supposed to treat "bird", "cat" and "dog" as though they're algebraic variables, you ought to be able to substitute any English noun for them and still have a coherent puzzle. Yet if it had been "Three years = 30 Three months = 9 Three days = 3 What is the value of one year plus one month, multiplied by one day?" I think you'd have had a lot of people scratching their heads and saying "what?"

1374321.  Fri Feb 12, 2021 10:58 am

 Brock wrote: There is one option we haven't discussed, and that's changing the meaning of "three", perhaps to "the number of... in my house": The number of birds in my house = 30 The number of cats in my house = 9 The number of dogs in my house = 3 That's all perfectly coherent and consistent (although it doesn't solve the puzzle). Another thing that occurred to me is that if you're supposed to treat "bird", "cat" and "dog" as though they're algebraic variables, you ought to be able to substitute any English noun for them and still have a coherent puzzle. Yet if it had been "Three years = 30 Three months = 9 Three days = 3 What is the value of one year plus one month, multiplied by one day?" I think you'd have had a lot of people scratching their heads and saying "what am I banging on about now?"

FTFY

 1374322.  Fri Feb 12, 2021 11:03 am That is still perfectly coherent; it's just confusing because it makes it sound as though the terms are being used in their normal sense, when they aren't. I think in magic circles that would count as misdirection.

1374323.  Fri Feb 12, 2021 11:07 am

 Numerophile wrote: That is still perfectly coherent; it's just confusing because it makes it sound as though the terms are being used in their normal sense, when they aren't.

Right. So why was it obvious that "bird", "cat" and "dog" weren't being used in their normal sense?

(I don't have any answer to this, by the way.)

1374327.  Fri Feb 12, 2021 11:42 am

Brock wrote:
 Numerophile wrote: That is still perfectly coherent; it's just confusing because it makes it sound as though the terms are being used in their normal sense, when they aren't.

Right. So why was it obvious that "bird", "cat" and "dog" weren't being used in their normal sense?

(I don't have any answer to this, by the way.)

My bold,
The reason it is confusing is because you make it so tyring your hardest to prove a point that was explained to you some weeks ago.

1374333.  Fri Feb 12, 2021 12:53 pm

Brock wrote:
 Numerophile wrote: That is still perfectly coherent; it's just confusing because it makes it sound as though the terms are being used in their normal sense, when they aren't.

Right. So why was it obvious that "bird", "cat" and "dog" weren't being used in their normal sense?

(I don't have any answer to this, by the way.)

My bold,
The reason it is confusing is because you make it so tyring your hardest to prove a point that was explained to you some weeks ago.

I'm not trying to prove any point at all, barbados. I'm just raising another point for discussion.

I've suggested to you a couple of times, politely, that maybe this isn't the right topic for you. I'm not trying to be rude, but I don't think your contributions to this thread have been terribly helpful.

Sometimes it's just interesting to discuss things for the sake of discussing them. There doesn't always have to be a point to prove.

 1374335.  Fri Feb 12, 2021 1:06 pm What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

1374337.  Fri Feb 12, 2021 1:12 pm

Brock wrote:
 Numerophile wrote: That is still perfectly coherent; it's just confusing because it makes it sound as though the terms are being used in their normal sense, when they aren't.

Right. So why was it obvious that "bird", "cat" and "dog" weren't being used in their normal sense?

(I don't have any answer to this, by the way.)

It was obvious to me because the whole thing started from a description of one of those silly puzzles of the type that often float around on the Book of Faces.
Those puzzles are not about real objects. They are about symbols, or, if you like, pictures of various objects shown in an image arranged in a way that resembles n equations with n unknown variables.

If you like, we can do a poll on how many of us that thought it was obvious and how many didn't.

Then, perhaps, we could look at a related question: why would you think they referred to real objects?

1374338.  Fri Feb 12, 2021 1:14 pm

 Brock wrote: I'm not trying to prove any point at all, barbados. I'm just raising another point for discussion. I've suggested to you a couple of times, politely, that maybe this isn't the right topic for you. I'm not trying to be rude, but I don't think your contributions to this thread have been terribly helpful. Sometimes it's just interesting to discuss things for the sake of discussing them. There doesn't always have to be a point to prove.

The answer to your question was answered when you first raised it. Then it was answered again when you raised again, then again, and again.
The answer to your newly raised question is the same, because you have set the parameters, in exactly the same way it was explained initially.
3 x {variable 1} = 30 carries the same value of the variable - regardless of the name given to that variable - rabbits, birds, months, letters, in fact any name you want to assign to the variable.
Your contributions are the ones that are not being helpful, because even though the answer has been explained to you time and time again - you then ask exactly the same question using a different variable suggesting that this is what makes it "confusing" - you'll note that no one else here is confused.

1374341.  Fri Feb 12, 2021 1:21 pm

If you don't have an answer, please stop contributing. I've asked you nicely, three times now. I think you're being a little unfair on me.

1374342.  Fri Feb 12, 2021 1:22 pm

 CB27 wrote: What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

Brexit or Remain?

PDR

1374347.  Fri Feb 12, 2021 1:28 pm

 Dix wrote: It was obvious to me because the whole thing started from a description of one of those silly puzzles of the type that often float around on the Book of Faces. Those puzzles are not about real objects. They are about symbols, or, if you like, pictures of various objects shown in an image arranged in a way that resembles n equations with n unknown variables.

Maybe that was the problem. I'm not on Facebook and hadn't seen one of those puzzles before. I thought the puzzle actually contained the line "three birds = 30", verbatim.

If they were just graphical symbols, it's a lot easier to imagine that they might have represented numerical quantities.

1374351.  Fri Feb 12, 2021 1:41 pm

Brock wrote:
 Numerophile wrote: That is still perfectly coherent; it's just confusing because it makes it sound as though the terms are being used in their normal sense, when they aren't.

Right. So why was it obvious that "bird", "cat" and "dog" weren't being used in their normal sense?

(I don't have any answer to this, by the way.)

Because addition in terms of years and months does have a 'normal' meaning, whereas in terms of birds and cats it doesn't. In its normal sense you would expect 'a year plus a month' to mean thirteen months; a year is a multiple number of months, while a bird is not a multiple number of cats.

1374355.  Fri Feb 12, 2021 1:47 pm

 Dix wrote: It was obvious to me because the whole thing started from a description of one of those silly puzzles of the type that often float around on the Book of Faces. Those puzzles are not about real objects. They are about symbols, or, if you like, pictures of various objects shown in an image arranged in a way that resembles n equations with n unknown variables.

They don't need to be pictograms though do they? they just need to described as such, and that was done
3 birds = 30, make it plainly obvious that the word "bird" is a variable, as was explained in the original post. Then when the variable was changed to "cheese" the same applied, as it does with the variable "year". It is exactly the same question n variable = nn the value of the variable is always n/nn basic KS1 arithmetic

1374359.  Fri Feb 12, 2021 2:19 pm

Numerophile wrote:
Brock wrote:
 Numerophile wrote: That is still perfectly coherent; it's just confusing because it makes it sound as though the terms are being used in their normal sense, when they aren't.

Right. So why was it obvious that "bird", "cat" and "dog" weren't being used in their normal sense?

(I don't have any answer to this, by the way.)

Because addition in terms of years and months does have a 'normal' meaning, whereas in terms of birds and cats it doesn't. In its normal sense you would expect 'a year plus a month' to mean thirteen months; a year is a multiple number of months, while a bird is not a multiple number of cats.

And yet in post 1373769 you said:

"The fact that in other contexts it [="bird"] can also be used to represent an animal that flies about is no more relevant than the fact that 'x' is the 24th letter of the alphabet."

Now you seem to be saying that the fact that "year" and "month" also have meanings that are periods of time is relevant. In other words, the usual meanings of the words in the problem do have some bearing on how it's interpreted.

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