Fallacy of Equivocation

😀   😀 We were asked to pick a fallacy and explore a real life example. I chose the fallacy of Equivocation because I simply found it amusing. The fallacy of equivocation is the term given for the mistake made when you use a word in two different senses of an argument. I also acknowledge that the use of fallacy of equivocation is common in really bad joke books or the comical jokes of christmas crackers (fitting as it is coming to christmas soon) such as the joke:

‘why did the skeleton miss the prom?

Because he had nobody to go with. ‘ 🙂

Note the double meaning of nobody. I found myself thinking of it while watching a ‘friends’ episode in which Joey (the less bright of the group) asks the stupid question-‘is that why their extinct?’ when told certain exhibits are ‘homosapiens’ The use of such fallacies are very frequent in newspaper headings (see example below) and the framework behind puns.

The creator often attempts to use words of same sounding but different meaning(its and it’s. there and their) or same spelling and if we ourselves use too many homophones, homographs or homonyms we find ourself sounding silly.

‘you have no right to restrict my rights.’

In our mind we can have so many different meanings mixed up in our head that it may lead us to spell words incorrectly or write the wrong word for the wrong context: (aloud-allowed, effect-affect) silly mistakes but meaningful nonetheless.

A life example would be the improper use of the word Evolution in scientific explanations. The dictionary defenitions show that evolution can describe both ,

a developmental process by which different organisms develop as a result of changes in genetic material.


the idea that over time certain organisms develop similar characteristics due to a shared ancestor.

so to some up evolution in the sense of change and evolution in referral to descent from a common ancestor.

An example in the media was when scientists were discussing bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics or plants adjusting to their surroundings. They exclaim that  these are examples of ‘evolution in action’ and this proves that god did not create the world but the truth is  this is true for evolution in the sense of change but does not prove anything about their ancestors or the beginning of life on earth.

A few weird conclusions are drawn from the use of fallacy of equivocation below. :p

”The sign said ‘fine for parking here’, and since it was fine, I parked there.”

”All trees have bark. All dogs bark. Therefore, all dogs are trees.”

“Consider that two wrongs never make a right, but that three lefts do.”

God is love, Love is blind, Therefore, God is visually impaired.

To finish off fallacies of Equivocation are used widely in the world and I chose this one as it is the easiest to identify with and are extremely broad.

till nextime 😉


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. chtok
    Dec 11, 2012 @ 09:34:31

    Yes, you’re right that the fallacy of equivocation is one we can find fairly common examples of. The one you pick is very interesting, however. I thought already that the general public had a wrong understanding of what evolution actually was but it is instructive to see scientists also making unjustified inferences.


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