[lit-ideas] Orson Welles's Pair of Shoes

  • From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 1 Nov 2013 10:55:23 -0400 (EDT)

In a message dated 10/30/2013 5:59:53 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,  
donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx quotes from wiki "All suits were dismissed, except 
for  a 
claim for a  
pair of black men's shoes", and comments:

"I know they were less enlightened times, but the idea that black men  then 
had to have separate shoes is new to me. Even at the height of apartheid  
etc."

Part of the problem is the plural.
 
As McEvoy knows (or we assume he knows) shoes are sold in pairs (of two).  
When I first read the above in the newspaper -- the source Wiki quotes --, 
in  French, I noticed no ambiguity and so I was not lead to any sort of  
misunderstanding. Try translating the quote to the original French and you'll  
find out why. 
 
In old Latin, on the other hand, since the genitive was a bother, the  
ambiguity remains. (To which we add that ambiguity of English _black_ cognate  
with Romance _blanc_, the opposite shade in the spectrum (see: "Fifty shades  
between black and white"). 
 
The reasoning proceeds along Griceian lines:
 
"All suits were dismissed"
 
--- as Geary notes, here the colour is not specified, but we can assume  
'black' (to match the shoes).
 
"[black] men's suits." "One of which I don't have and have had only one in  
my life some 50 years ago."
 
Note that 'all' is not numerical. As opposed to "Every suit was dismissed". 
 Aristotle prefers "every" since it allows for a singular copulation:
 
"every suit IS dismissed"
 
-- vide Aristotle on multiple copulation, "Organon" -- "Multiple copulation 
 brings multiple problems".
 
"Every suit was dismissed," _except_. This is what Grice calls a  
'defeater': "What's the good of using 'every' if you are going to annul it with 
 
'except'?" In Old French, 'except' was never used exceptionally.
 
"except for a pair of black men's shoes".
 
Note that if only _one_ shoe had not been dismissed, McEvoy would have no  
qualms:
 
"every suit was dismissed except for a black men's shoe."
 
Another alternative is to revert to 'male': 'male black shoe'. 
 
In sum, the ambiguity results from various plurarities which could have  
been avoided in the first place: "ALL suitS WERE", "a pair" and "men" and  
"shoes". Or not.
 
Note that strictly, a pair of shoes does not _make_ a suit -- even in  
Massachusetts it apparently did. 
 
D. Ritchie's proposals to use boots involves an application of modal -- and 
 possibly deontic -- logic. 
 
Cheers,
 
Speranza
 
-----
 
i. All suits were dismissed, except for ... a pair of black (men's  shoes).
ii. All suits were dismissed, except for ... a pair of (black men's)  shoes.
 
 
 
 
 
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  • » [lit-ideas] Orson Welles's Pair of Shoes - Jlsperanza