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At least one (inherited) structure of our language "induces" inappropriate assumptions. Let me give you an example. One specific phrase frequently used by people has the form "... finding, or working on, etc., 'the' answer to a problem, conflict, etc....". Choosing (implying some speaker) to use the definite article 'the' rather than an indefinite article, 'a' or 'an', or a pronoun 'one', etc., has some "built-in" premises as well as some conditional results. One of those built-in premises can be stated "There is one unique solution -- 'it'". One psychological "cost" of such a premise is increased stress to find that "one and only" answer. Another consequence is that finding one answer ends the search (After all, we found "the" answer...). If we dislike that answer, additional psychological stress results. The principle of the general semantic indexing device, 'etc.', applied to "solutions" can remind us of alternative solutions, and obviates using the definite article. Don't ask "What's the answer?". Ask instead "What's an answer."

Source: Ralph Kenyon, 1982

This page was updated by Ralph Kenyon on 2009/11/16 at 10:54 and has been accessed 6275 times at 47 hits per month.