Index ← 2593 CFJ 2594 2595 → text
==============================  CFJ 2594  ==============================

    The proposal entitled It's the Thought That Counts, if adopted,
    would successfully cause the second Rule Change described in its


Caller:                                 scshunt
Barred:                                 Murphy

Judge:                                  Pavitra
Judgement:                              TRUE



Called by scshunt:                      18 Jun 2009 02:32:59 GMT
Assigned to Pavitra:                    21 Jun 2009 01:34:57 GMT
Judged TRUE by Pavitra:                 21 Jun 2009 08:55:57 GMT


Caller's Arguments:

> It's the Thought That Counts, AI=1.5, II=0
> {{{
> Add a new bullet to Rule 1871 (The Standing Court), reading
> {{
>       * Kneeling. Kneeling players are unqualified to judge. Kneeling is
>         a punishment levied on repetitively awful judges.
> }}
> Add a new paragraph to Rule 1871 (The Standing Court), reading
> {{
>       Rules to the contrary notwithstanding, a player's posture CANNOT
>       be flipped away from kneeling unless the flip is made by an
>       instrument of sufficient power to perform arbitrary posture
>       changes, or that player has been kneeling for at least 14 days.
> }}
> Flip Rodlen's posture to kneeling.
> }}}

The first attempted change specifies to "Add a bullet". The bullet is
the standard typographical method for an entry to a list. Therefore, it
is easily interpreted that the bullet is to go on the list, rather as
somewhere else, which would be ludicrous.

In both instances, it's unclear if the text should be appended.
According to wiktionary, "add" can mean:
 1. To give by way of increased possession (to any one); to bestow (on).
 2. To join or unite, as one thing to another, or as several
particulars, so as to increase the number, augment the quantity, enlarge
the magnitude, or so as to form into one aggregate. Hence: To sum up; to
put together mentally; as, to add numbers; to add up a column.
 3. To append, as a statement; to say further.
 4. To make an addition. To add to, to augment; to increase; as, it adds
to our anxiety.
 5. To perform the arithmetical operation of addition; as, he adds rapidly.

Notably, definition 3 features "append", and makes no mention of
insertion at an arbitrary location. Therefore it seems obvious that
"add" should be taken to mean "append".


Gratuitous Arguments by Pavitra:

If the proposal read "insert" or "amend the list to include" rather than
"append", then the change would almost certainly be ambiguous. The judge
is requested to provide a general rubric for determining whether a given
near-synonym for "append"/"insert" is ambiguous or unambiguous, and if
possible to do so for potentially-ambiguous terminology in general.


Judge Pavitra's Arguments:

First, the case.

Ambiguity exists if and only if there is more than one meaningfully
different reasonable interpretation of the text. The definition cited in
caller's arguments suggests that "add" can only mean "append". I disagree.

The cited definition refers to a very specific, somewhat idiomatic
usage: "That is a very interesting argument. I would like to add to that
that coconuts are brown." "Oh, one more thing -- I would like to add
that I rather liked the play." "And furthermore, let me add that there
is mud on your boots!"

All of these have in common that they are amending in realtime a
discourse or remark given in realtime. Compare the following:
"Interesting paper. You might add in there somewhere that coconuts are
brown." "I'm not satisfied with the painting yet -- I'd like to add a
splash of red to it somehow." "You should add something about the mud in
your police report."

In writing these examples, I have noticed something I did not expect to
find. When "add" is used to mean "append", it is used with "to". When it
means "insert", it is used with "in". To add foo to bar is to append foo
to bar; to add foo in bar is to insert foo in bar.

The Proposal under question uses "to".

It might be argued that "add a new bullet to" and "add a new paragraph
to" are by R754(1) sufficiently close to "add a new bullet in" and "add
a new paragraph in" respectively. This argument would be wrong, because
allowing those synonyms "would create an ambiguity in meaning."

I judge Proposals 2593-4 TRUE.

Now for my general rubric.

I realize that an append/insert rubric is impossible. English is a
messy, illogical language. I could, if I were so inclined, research
every word that has ever been recorded as being used as a near-synonym
for either of these words, and discover the usage patterns for each; but
the result would be a dictionary, not a general pattern or rule. Also,
some Agoran would immediately invent a new word or usage specifically to
mess with the dictionary, because Agorans are like that.

It may be possible to develop a more abstract rubric for ambiguity in

The boundaries of ambiguity, pedantry, and forgiveness are defined in
the general case (i.e., unless overridden by domain-specific rules like
R105p3) by the interaction of Rules 217s1 and 754(1).

217s1 calls for Rules to mean exactly what they say, and this is
generally extended to all Agoran texts, such as announcements,
Proposals, and Legalistic contracts. The exceptions, such as Equitable
contracts and consent to contracts, are there because the Rules say so

754(1) is more explicit in applying to "all forms of communication", but
it is also explicitly limited: "as long as the difference does not
create an ambiguity in meaning."

The general rubric, then, is this: if a message would otherwise mean or
do nothing useful, then 754(1) may be usable to give it a meaning. If it
could reasonably have any of a set of two or more meanings, then 217s1
may be usable to get rid of all but one meaning on various
technicalities. If you can't do either, or if 754(1) gives multiple
equally reasonable meanings, or if 217s1 gets rid of all meanings on
equally reasonable technicalities, then Rule 217s2 takes effect, and we
(finally) get to talk about the best interests of the game.

In short:

It's all about counting how many possible meanings a text has.
 * If it has zero, you can use the "reasonable synonym" principle to
   bring this up to one. However, the use of "reasonable synonym" can
   never result in a text having two or more meanings.
 * If it has two or more, you can be pedantic to get rid of some of
   them, but you have to apply your technicalities consistently.
 * If you can make it have exactly one, that's what it means.
 * If you can't make it have more than zero, it doesn't mean anything.
 * If you can't make it have fewer than two, you get to pick which one
   you like based on "game custom, common sense, past judgements, and
   consideration of the best interests of the game."
 * If you can make it have exactly one meaning in two or more different
   ways that give you different meanings, that counts as it having those
   two or more meanings. See previous bullet.

I think that, largely, the Agoran community was already aware of this.
Still, it's nice to have it written out; in particular, to have
often-abused concepts such as "reasonable synonym", "game custom", and
"best interests of the game" laid out in concise relation to each other
in one place.