Getting them to believe

The Dilbert of 10/21/12, in which Dilbert spars with his boss:

Two rounds: over calling the Internet a cloud, and then explicitly over the gullibility of dumb people.

The aim is have the business taken seriously. To this end, over Dilbert’s “cloudwash” puzzlement, the boss instructs Dilbert to call the Internet a cloud; people take the cloud seriously (and, presumably, no longer take the Internet seriously).

Dilbert offers a smart (and honest) person’s rejoinder, but his boss dismisses smart people as irrelevant. Dumb people believe anything.

Then Dilbert’s masterstroke, asking the boss if he believes Dilbert did X (where X presupposes that Dilbert buys into the renaming move in round 1). But “Do you believe I did X?” is ambiguous, between a straightforward question about belief ¬†about X and a exclamatory utterance, in the form of a question, presupposing X has been done. The boss is invited to adopt the latter understanding, and apparently does. So we get the wonderful “I’m going to say yes” as Dilbert’s last move — which doesn’t say yes, but allows the boss to think Dilbert has done so.

One Response to “Getting them to believe”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    In e-mail, Elizabeth Traugott suggests hell’s bell’s as an (extant) exclamation parallel to Hegel’s bagels. Maybe there’s nothing deeper there.

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