Gotta love wikipedia – and ambiguity


When the Charlotte’s Web xkcd comic came out recently, I of course had to check the wikipedia article that it referred to, and have a read of the talk page.

Here I found some that argued that the ambiguity of the sentence highlighted by xkcd (“Charlotte’s Web is a children’s novel by American author E. B. White, about a pig named Wilbur who is saved from being slaughtered by an intelligent spider named Charlotte.”) should be left as it is, and not be changed just because it was highlighted in a comic strip.

But the part I find most amusing is that although the “syntax salvationists” reworded the sentence so that we now know that Charlotte is doing the saving rather than the slaughtering, a little further reading reveals that at least one author of this article had a habit of ambiguity, and as of today, the following sentence is still in the said wikipedia article:

When the old sheep in the barn cellar tells Wilbur that he is going to be killed and eaten at Christmas, he turns to Charlotte for help.

Let’s see if any “ambiguity annihilatist” fixes this one, or indeed if it is the pig or the sheep that gets eaten at Christmas.

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About RedNectar Chris Welsh

Professional IT Instructor. All things TCP/IP, Cisco or VoIP
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