FACTOID # 10: The total number of state executions in 2005 was 60: 19 in Texas and 41 elsewhere. The racial split was 19 Black and 41 White.
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Encyclopedia > Amphibology

Amphibology or amphiboly (from the Greek amphibolia) is, in logic, a verbal fallacy arising from ambiguity in the grammatical structure of a sentence. Logic, from Classical Greek λόγος logos (the word), is the study of the principles and criteria of valid inference and demonstration. ... Look up fallacy in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Look up ambiguity in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...

Some examples:

Teenagers shouldn't be allowed to drive. It's getting too dangerous on the streets.

This could be taken to mean the teenagers will be in danger, or that they will cause the danger.

I once shot an elephant in my pajamas.

A famous quotation by Groucho Marx from the comedic film Animal Crackers, it is unclear if the speaker shot the elephant while wearing pajamas or if the elephant was in the speaker's pajamas.

Amphiboly occurs frequently in poetry, owing to the alteration of the natural order of words for metrical reasons; for example, Shakespeare, in Henry VI: The duke yet lives that Henry shall depose. (1.4.30). Wikipedia does not yet have an article with this exact name. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ...

Marlowe in Edward II provides an equally famous example: Christopher (Kit) Marlowe (baptised 26 February 1564 – 30 May 1593?) was an English dramatist, poet, and translator of the Elizabethan era. ... Edward II is an Elizabethan play written by Christopher Marlowe. ...

Edwardum occidere nolite timere bonum est.

Depending on how the reader punctuates this line, this can be interpreted as Edward's death sentence, or as an order to preserve Edward's life

Fear not to kill the king, 'tis good he die... kill not the king, 'tis good to fear the worst. (5.4.8-11)

Other examples of amphibology

Dog for sale. Will eat anything. Especially fond of children.
Used cars for sale: Why go elsewhere to be cheated? Come here first!
At our drugstore, we dispense with accuracy!
Eat our curry, you won't get better!
(Professor to student, on receiving a fifty-page term paper): "I shall waste no time reading it." (Often attributed to Spooner)

William Archibald Spooner (July 22, 1844–August 29, 1930) was educated at Oswestry School and New College, Oxford, the first non-Wykehamist to be so, and became an Anglican priest and a scholar. ...

Historical word usage

In reference to his Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to John Adams stating: This article is becoming very long. ... John Adams (October 30, 1735 – July 4, 1826) served as Americas first Vice President (1789–1797) and as its second President (1797–1801). ...

"We must reduce our volume to the simple evangelists, select, even from them, the very words only of Jesus, paring off the amphibologisms into which they have been led, by forgetting often, or not understanding, what had fallen from him, by giving their own misconceptions as his dicta, and expressing unintelligibly for others what they had not understood themselves." [1]

Informal fallacies
v  d  e
Special pleading | Red herring | Gambler's fallacy and its inverse
Fallacy of distribution (Composition | Division) | Begging the question | Many questions
Correlative-based fallacies:
False dilemma (Perfect solution) | Denying the correlative | Suppressed correlative
Deductive fallacies:
Accident | Converse accident
Inductive fallacies:
Hasty generalization | Overwhelming exception | Biased sample
False analogy | Misleading vividness | Conjunction fallacy
False precision | Slippery slope
Amphibology | Continuum fallacy | False attribution (Contextomy | Quoting out of context)
Equivocation (Loki's Wager | No true Scotsman)
Questionable cause:
Correlation does not imply causation | Post hoc | Regression fallacy
Texas sharpshooter | Circular cause and consequence | Wrong direction | Single cause
Other types of fallacy

  Results from FactBites:
"Fallacies Handout" (2690 words)
: The use of a statement which permits of two interpretations is known as the fallacy of amphibology.
Amphibology differs from equivocation in two important respects: (1) amphibology pertains to the entire argument, whereas equivocation is limited to single terms; (2) the entire argument is susceptible to a two-fold interpretation due to its structure, not to any misuse on the part of the debater.
As in the following examples, amphibologies are often attributable to the use of misplaced modifiers:
  More results at FactBites »



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