deceptively simple

Benjamin Barrett gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM
Sun Jan 27 03:01:24 UTC 2008

Thank you for that!

BTW, I think it's obvious, but my first sentence should have read:

Editing a manuscript the other day,  I was unable to parse the,
collocation "deceptively simple" because I couldn't figure out if it,
means "appears complex but is actually simple" or "appears simple but
is actually **complex**". BB

On Jan 26, 2008, at 6:53 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: deceptively simple
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> ---------
> I'm not sure whether I'm recalling an earlier discussion of this on
> ads-l or Language Log, or just this column by Biersma, forwarded by a
> colleague.  I think the answer is that you're not the only one to be
> unable to parse it.
> LH
> ========================
> You dasn't speak deceptively or be overanxious to please
> By Nathan Bierma
> Special to the Tribune
> Published August 30, 2006
> Q. We have had a long-standing disagreement about how to interpret
> the phrase "deceptively simple." Once at a dinner party we surveyed
> our very smart guests, and the group was evenly divided. What is your
> opinion? Does "deceptively simple" mean that something is truly
> simple but appears difficult, or does it mean that something is truly
> difficult but looks as if it were simple?
> -- Terry Sukenik, Chicago
> -- Terry Imber, Los Angeles
> A. This bet will be hard to settle. The answer is not simple, and I'm
> not deceiving.
> "When `deceptively' is used to modify an adjective, the meaning is
> often unclear," says the "American Heritage Guide to Contemporary
> Usage and Style." The American Heritage editors surveyed their Usage
> Panel back in 1982, and got similar results to your dinner-party
> poll. In the sentence -- "The pool is deceptively shallow" -- half of
> the panel thought the pool is shallower than it appears; while 32
> percent said it was deep; and 18 percent said it was impossible to
> determine. I agree with the 50 percent. Because "deceptively"
> modifies "shallow," I would think the pool is shallow but deceives
> you into thinking that it isn't shallow. But there's so much
> ambiguity in the phrase that American Heritage's "Guide" suggests
> that you reword it, saying that the pool "is shallower than it looks"
> or "is shallow, despite its appearance."
> ======================
> At 4:49 PM -0800 1/26/08, Benjamin Barrett wrote:
>> Editing a manuscript the other day, I was unable to parse the
>> collocation "deceptively simple" because I couldn't figure out if it
>> means "appears complex but is actually simple" or "appears simple
>> but is actually simple". I knew this was bizarre given that I'm a
>> native speaker of English, but it also piqued my interest as to why
>> I was suddenly drawing a blank.
>> After Googling around for a bit, I found that is means the latter,
>> but I also came up with the following meanings:
>> -----
>> 1. The basics are easy to learn, but their application/mastery
>> requires a great deal of practice or thought. Applications of this
>> includes games such as go and texas hold'em
>> Go is the world's most ancient board game, with deceptively simple
>> rules that lead to astonishingly deep strategy.
>> (
>> Texas Hold'em is a deceptively simple game to learn but a harder
>> game to master.
>> ( by
>> Bill Burton)
>> 2. The surface is simple, but there is great deal of depth. (Nearly
>> synonymous with 1)
>> Deceptively Simple Melodies...A mesmerizing narcotically-addicting
>> collage of deceptively simple solo keyboard and synthesizer melodies
>> that worm into your mind. ( by
>> Douglas King (?))
>> Deceptively simple stories about earthy country girls
>> (
>> DDGUFON4001.DTL&hw=BErrett&sn=001&sc=1000
>> by Jesse Berrett)
>> 3. Given the simplicity of the operation/interface, it is powerful.
>> InqScribe sports a deceptively simple interface, pairing your
>> digital video and audio with a transcript editor that lets you
>> synchronize specific portions of your transcript with corresponding
>> time segments within the media.
>> (
>> "Deceptively simple revenge ideas from Martha Stewart Living", an
>> article including simple ideas such as vandalising cars, sending
>> hate bouquets, and destroying lawns.
>> (
>> ideas-from.html
>> by Spirit Fingers)
>> 4. Although it is a straight-forward process, the science behind it
>> is complex/it is difficult to describe it scientifically.
>> Resistance Welding: A Fast, Inexpensive and Deceptively Simple
>> Process... This makes the process extremely difficult to model
>> mathematically...On first inspection, the resistance welding process
>> is relatively simple. (
>> by T. W. Eager)
>> (On the design of the Google logo) It was playful and deceptively
>> simple. The design subtle as to look almost non-designed, the
>> reading effortless. The colors evoke memories of child play, but
>> deftly stray from the color wheel strictures so as to hint to the
>> inherent element of serendipity creeping into any search results
>> page and the irreverance and boldness of the "I am feeling lucky"
>> link. The texture and shading of each letter is done in an
>> unobtrusive way resulting in lifting it from the page while giving
>> it both weight and lightness. It is solid but there is also an
>> ethereal quality to it.
>> (
>> designer-of-the-google-logo
>> by Philipp Lenssen, citing Ruth Kedar)
>> 5. Appears to be simple, but turns out not to be so.
>> The Deceptively Simple Senior Search...No way around it: I had one
>> weekend to write an all-new, 45-minute dazzler. My simple senior
>> search was turning out to be not so simple.
>> ( by
>> Julie Striver)
>> ...
>> There is also the title "Is Generative Grammar deceptively simple or
>> simply deceptive?"
>> ( by Stephen
>> Crain and Paul Pietroski)
>> -----
>> Admittedly, these can all be classified as having a simple element
>> that turns out to have complexity. Nevertheless, meanings 1 and 5
>> are essentially antonymous, and the application of definition 4 is
>> quite different from the others. I think this makes this an
>> interesting collocation and perhaps indicates that this could be
>> considered a single word unit.
>> What would be interesting is if a citation can be found where
>> "deceptively simple" is used to refer to a process that appears to
>> be complex but is actually simple.
>> Benjamin Barrett
>> a cyberbreath for language life
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society -
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