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9:19am on Tuesday, 5th October, 2021:

Degrees of Truth


On my morning constitutional, I passed a father talking to his son.

Son: It's not raining.
Father: This is true. This is very true.

The father's remarks annoyed me twice over.

Firstly, why "this" rather than "that"? "This" can be used indicatively to refer to the encapsulation of what has just been presented (following an image, say, or at the end of an exposition). It doesn't bind to an individual statement of observable fact, though. There's a difference in the use of "this" between "this is a cat" and "this is true". Stand-alone, "this is true" is a self-referential statement.

Secondly, why "very"? Truth is a binary concept. Single-fact statements are either true or they're not true. They can't be "very true". There aren't different degrees of Boolean values. "This is very true" is like saying "This very is".

The first annoyance is an idiom. No-one ever said it when I was young, but after it appeared in popular culture it managed to corner the market in intellectual-sounding alternatives to "I agree", where it now holds court.

The second annoyance has currency because no-one uses the word "verily" at the start of a sentence any more when they wish to express their faith in the certainty of their assertion. What began as a comedic form of emphasis (saying "my washing machine is very on" to mean it's making a lot of noise and shaking about) is now merely a token of strong assent.

Pointers and truth values: language changes, yes, but that doesn't mean the changes are helpful for teaching people how to program.

I was walking rather than biking because it had rained heavily 90 minutes earlier and I didn't want to get caught if another downpour came my way.

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