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Lexical Leavings

by Tom Gally

Mark Spahn writes:

Ambiguity of "... is not an option"

(1) Failure is not an option.
(2) Fair housing is not an option.  It's the law.
The implicit conclusion of (1) is "... is prohibited"; the conclusion of (2) is "... is mandatory." Item (2) comes from a TV commercial that preaches against racial discriminating against would-be apartment renters.

It's interesting how this "... is not an option" is taken in either of two contradictory meanings. The actual meaning of "non-optional" is "either prohibited or mandatory."
(December 3, 2003)