What's Happening

Troperville

Tools

collapse/expand topics back to Main/MathematiciansAnswer

rockdeworld
topic
08:55:32 PM Jan 3rd 2014
This trope seems to me to have become a mix of Mathemetician's Answers, ambiguous "yes" answers, and actual answers that aren't useless and don't fit into this trope. To be clear:

A mathemetician's answer is not ambiguous, merely useless. Eg. "What time is it?" "Now" (from the xkcd comic)

An ambiguous yes is not useless, just momentarily confusing. Eg. "The beer, or me?" "Yes." (from the beer advertisement)

And some things are neither. Eg. "A few strips later there is an even purer example - this time directed at Belkar." Dialogue in question: "Do I get to cause the death of any of the following: [some names]." "Yes." (I removed that posting from the main page already)

Can we clean this up?
RedWren
topic
08:34:44 PM Sep 5th 2011
So...

Monty: Dad, is there a word to describe answers that are completely correct but entirely useless under the circumstances?
Prof. Jones: Yes, yes there is.

Is there actually such a word, and if so, what is it?
rockdeworld
08:45:55 PM Jan 3rd 2014
Apparently the word is "Mathemetician's Answer," or at least that's what I got from the exchange.
Herbarius
topic
04:45:15 PM Feb 22nd 2011
Examples include questions involving "can you ...?" or "will you ...?" as these are (colloquially) requests that the ... be done, whereas they literally mean "are you able to ...?" and "are you willing to ..." respectively.

I'm not a native English speaker, but shouldn't it read the following instead?

Examples include questions involving "can you ...?" or "will you ...?" as these are (colloquially) requests that the ... be done, whereas they literally mean "are you able to ...?" and "are you going to ..." respectively.
RedWren
08:32:50 PM Sep 5th 2011
edited by RedWren
Sort of. Technically, if you take "are you going to..." as a native English speaker would, then yeah. But given the page's context, "I am going to..." would imply there's no set time frame—"will you...?" generally comes with a time frame by implication, usually within a few seconds or minutes. "I am going to..." on this particular page might carry an "I will perform this action at some point in time most likely prior to my death" implication.

My two cents, both should just be called polite order forms, but there's not a great way to communicate that fact that doesn't rely on knowledge of grammar vocabulary. The original writer was probably working a way around that.
Beta
04:53:35 PM Jan 23rd 2014
"Will you..." has an archaic meaning "do you wish/intend to..." (see Shakespeare for examples). The strict sense of referring to a future event is "shall you...", which Shakespeare would have understood and which we now consider slightly pretentious.
mondeca
topic
03:05:10 PM May 24th 2010
There are a lot of items on this page (including the Babylon 5 page quote) that do not apply. If the answer can be replaced with the word "Both," then it's not a useless answer, and uselessness is required to be a Mathematician's Answer. Kosh specifically meant both the Narn and Centauri, so his answer is not useless; it's brief. The second page quote is a good example of the trope. The mathematician's answer in the joke is actually useless, as it is incredibly specific and absurd.
DevilsAdvocate
10:34:28 PM May 24th 2010
I disagree. In general, the question "A or B?" can correctly be answered with "Yes" if only A is true; if only B is true; or if A and B are both true. Answering "A or B" with "Yes" when both A and B are true is still a Mathematician's Answer, because it doesn't clarify to the person who asked whether A only, B only, or both A and B are true.

"Would you like coffee or tea?" "Yes." is a valid example of Mathematician's Answer if the person wanted coffee, or if he wanted tea, or if he wanted coffee and tea.
Johann7
06:51:26 PM Oct 20th 2010
edited by Johann7
I agree with Devil's Advocate; the specific cases result from the lack of differentiation between OR and XOR in English, which is mentioned. In fact, the Babylon 5 example is a perfect example in that the answer is a correct answer to the question-as-asked (allowing for inclusive OR) but NOT as intended (since speakers usually mean XOR, and will say "and/or" to specify OR). On a related note, the section that acknowledges this in the article seems to imply that differentiation between OR and XOR in some languages resolves the mathematician's answer of "yes," which it does not in fact do as long as one and only one of the items is correct in an XOR question or one, the other, or both of the answers is correct in an OR question. For example, the coffee/tea question is INTENDED to be "Would you like coffee or tea, and if so which would you like?" I do think the OR/XOR differentiation is interesting and occasionally relevant to the trope, so I don't think the line should be scrapped, but it does need to be re-worded.
back to Main/MathematiciansAnswer

TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy