Messing with my mind

From a Stanford student, this xkcd:


What I said to this student:

What makes the xkcd so challenging is that it’s an instance of a kind of conversational exchange that has been very little studied (if at all) — called in American street language, “messing with someone’s mind” or “yanking someone’s chain” (closely related: British “having someone on”). It involves saying something that is thought-provoking but not perceptibly appropriate to the situation at hand (so, on the face of it, just false) — often communicated with a formulaic expression (like “no pun intended” or “pardon my French”) attached. It’s a form of aggressive teasing… [ I just hate aggressive teasing]

In the xkcd case, the recipient has been tricked into spending hours fretting to make real sense of the original.

The Stanford course has developed to the point where the students are exploring old topics in new ways and introducing new topics and examples. In general, I don’t feel comfortable writing about these on this blog, at the moment and without the student’s permission. Maybe later. But in this case, I’m relaying some of my advice, not exposing a student’s ideas.

3 Responses to “Messing with my mind”

  1. Metatext in the comics | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] A blog mostly about language « Messing with my mind […]

  2. Metatext handout | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] This cartoon is discussed in my posting “Messing with my mind” of 2/11/14. […]

  3. My Hobby Comics | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] of the MHCs (My Hobby Comics) has appeared on this blog before: on “no pun intended” (the metatext). Another, on the reinterpretation of things […]

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