Ambiguity or Futility?

By Maeve Maddox

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Aika writes:

What does it mean when one says “exercise in ambiguity”? A friend said she hated attaching files to her emails because it was an exercise in ambiguity. I know she meant something absolutely negative, but I want to know the exact meaning.

I wrote a post with the the title “An Exercise in Ambiguity.” In it I analyze a headline that could be read to mean more than one thing. To me an exercise in ambiguity means an attempt at communication that can be interpreted in more than one way.

ambiguity: from French ambiguité, “uncertainty, doubt.” The sense “capability of having two meanings” is from 1430.

I think the friend may have been reaching for the expression an exercise in futility.

futility: “uselessness.” From the adjective futile, “vain, useless.”

Many people, I among them, do not open attachments from strangers. For this reason adding a file to an email can be viewed as an exercise in futility.

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3 Responses to “Ambiguity or Futility?”

  • Brad K.

    I suppose the friend could be deliberately placing content in attached files, to be deliberately imposing an extra step on the receiver to have to open the attachment to find the pithy screeds of turgid verbiage the friend is gracing the recipient with. Thus, an exercise in obfuscation.


  • Rod

    Ive seen “lol” many times but don’t know what it means.

  • Maeve

    It’s texting speak for “laughing out loud.”

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