## [Computational Complexity] Ambiguity

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• I recently heard or read the following phrases. - former cop killer - ideal compromiser - even prime numbers have their uses In each case it was ambiguous. The
Message 1 of 1 , Sep 14, 2009
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I recently heard or read the following phrases.
1. former cop killer
2. ideal compromiser
3. even prime numbers have their uses
In each case it was ambiguous. The first two intentionally and the last one by accident.
1. On the TV show MONK the main character, Adrian Monk, is a former cop. There was an episode where someone tried to shoot him. The shooter was called A former cop killer. The show played the ambiguity for laughs- did they mean someone who used to shoot cops or someone who shoots former cops? What would be the proper way to write that? former-cop killer would work, though I am not sure the English language allows hyphens.
2. On the TV show BETTER OFF TED a character was asked to compromise her ideals. Her friend Ted said (I may be paraphrasing) Don't make her into an ideal compromiser!. This was also played for laughs--- did he mean that she should not compromise her ideals, or did she mean she should not get really good at compromising? I do not know how to disambiguate that.
3. In the book PRIME OBSESSION (about the Riemann Hypothesis- both the math and the history) they make the point that pure math can have surprising applications. I was reading this book to my darling (I often read her math books to help her fall asleep) and I read Even prime numbers have their uses. She perked up and said Are they saying that 2 is useful? Well, I suppose it is since you can't get from 1 to 3 without it. I think she was sleep talking. The author should have just said Prime numbers have their uses, but is there some way to keep the phrase as he has it and disambiguate it? Perhaps Even the prime numbers have their uses; however, that still sounds odd since it sounds like you are saying of course the composites are useful but who would have thought the primes were! which is not what he is trying to convey. Better to just say Even Number Theory has its uses. Hmmm- that might be interpreted as the theory of even numbers...

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Posted By GASARCH to Computational Complexity at 9/14/2009 06:49:00 AM
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