27 Comments

  1. Mitch4: Well, it’s at least not a question phrased in a way that a Magic 8-Ball can answer. Perhaps they should have said “that’s not a yes or no question.”

  2. I agree with not changing the rules, but you have to admit that 8-Ball Death Match would be a great name for a metal band.

  3. Perhaps the frequency might be due to recent subliminal advertising. I know that the “Magic 8-Ball” showed up in at least two of the “Toy Story” movies, although I cannot recall whether it made another appearance in “Toy Store 4”.

  4. “Oh wait, he’s Will Shakespeare as a child. And thus,… Uh?”

    They thought it’d be too erudite to call him Hamlet? Kind of doesn’t make sense as Shakespeare as writers are not the same thing as their characters so *Shakespeare* never asked “To be or not to be” and if the readers are expected to recognize the quote and the posturing and know it is from Shakespeare, wouldn’t the readers also know it is from Hamlet?

  5. Most Magic-8 Balls have an “ask again later” option, but Little Will’s is the only one with a “thirty-five years from now, create a character to ask again for you” version.

  6. To this UK-er the cartoon was a mystery, because so is this Magic 8-Ball, which I have never heard of or ever seen (I maintain) despite having seen all the Toy Story films. I used to see the Dick van Dyke show as a kid and apparently it is on DvD’s character’s desk throughout the series, according to Wikipedia. So there you go. Magic.

  7. She’s right – ‘to be or not to be’ is not a question. It’s a tautology.

    The correct interpretation of the sentence is more along the lines of, “Should I continue to live or not?” That isn’t a logical tautology.

  8. “To be or not to be” is a question. Compare “What to wear today, that is the question.” When stated with well-formed grammar, the second is “What shall I wear today?” The first is “Shall I be, or shall I not be?” or more understandably, “Shall I continue to live, or shall I stop living?”

  9. Of course it’s a question. As previously mentioned, it is not a question that Magic 8 Ball can answer. Magic 8 Ball requires a yes or no question. Phrasing a question like “To be or not to be?” is like asking “You don’t want gravy on your potatoes, do you?” Both a “yes” or a “no” answer are ambiguous and require further clarification.

    When I was working at a magazine, we received a Magic 8 Ball from a PR agency (during the days of Dotcom Bubble I there was all kinds of foolishness to try to get their press releases to stand out) and we kept it around and frequently asked it questions. It was never wrong. I do wonder what’s inside, though, as, over time, the writing on the dohickey inside eventually faded into nothing.

  10. @ narmitaj – To be fair, the 8-Ball is a very minor (non-speaking) character, and has only one significant scene in the first “Toy Story” movie, and was (I think) only a dust collector in the second. Since it definitely wasn’t one of the “keepers” in the third movie, there’s really no way it could have appeared in the fourth.

  11. P.S. @ Singapore Bill – …asking “You don’t want gravy on your potatoes, do you?” Both a “yes” or a “no” answer are ambiguous …
    The odd thing is that while this ambiguity definitely exists for such “negative” questions in English, it does not occur in German. For the example you provided, “Nein!” would be universally understood (in German) to be an unequivocal “no, I do not want gravy.” (Personally, as a native English speaker, I find this habit slightly unnerving.) The reason for this certainty is that German offers (besides “Ja!“) also a third possible answer: “Doch!“, which is an emphatic “refutational yes” (perhaps emblematic for an argumentative society).

  12. I’m hung up on them mixing up the Yorick scene with the “To be or not to be” soliloquy. Two different things. Also, my first impression was that a child was asking a Magic 8-Ball whether he should commit suicide. That’s unsettling.

  13. @ Mitch4 – I just went looking for “the” 8-Ball app, but discovered that there are probably a dozen different ones. Which one do you have?

  14. Kilby, y’know what? Just after I posted that I stopped to realize I hadn’t seen or used the app in quite a while. I went to check on my Android phone, and it didn’t seem to have made it thru my broken-phone replacement process last year.

    I decided to try a new one, but had installation troubles, then saw the one I was trying had ads and didn’t even allow a paid bypass.

    So I looked on my iPad, and again didn’t have quite the one I thought I was remembering. But I got a nice new one, a $0.99 purchase, “Modern Magic 8 Ball 3.5.2” from Hayden Watson. The appearance isn’t quite right, if you’re looking for an animation of the physical one. But the responses start with “Classic (Default)” and in the settings you can choose other response sets – Modern, Rude, Songs…. And Custom (I haven’t tried entering these).

    Meanwhile, it looks like I also lost the I Ching app I really liked. Animation of coins, displays several parts of the pentagram in Wilhelm / Baynes text, shows the changing lines, has some help on interpretation, and saves your history. Can anyone put a name to that or another very good one?

  15. English seems to be rather unusual in treating negatives like a computer language would. In French they say “L’ordinateur ne marche pas” which is “The computer doesn’t not work” but really means “The computer doesn’t work.” English might be the only natural language where the grammarians insist that “I don’t want no potatoes” means “I do want some potatoes.”

  16. @ MiB – I remember running into that topic in Spanish class: our teacher had some trouble getting us all to accept that the double negative was actually required, and did not indicate illiteracy.

  17. Not all grammarians would insist on the example being an affirmative. The ones that do don’t really believe it, but try to use the logic to show that it’s poor English. Other recognize the concept of double negation for emphasis.

  18. “8-Ball Death Match would be a great name for a metal band”

    I totally agree! It should be fronted by lead singer Arlo Synchronicity. I’d go see them.

  19. The double negative reminds me of “I never did”, “I always didn’t” from Joseph Heller’s Catch-22:

    “Just what the hell did you mean, you bastard, when you said we couldn’t punish you?” said the corporal who could take shorthand reading from his steno pad.

    “All right,” said the colonel. “Just what the hell did you mean?”

    “I didn’t say you couldn’t punish me, sir.”

    “When,” asked the colonel.

    “When what, sir?”

    “Now you’re asking me questions again.”

    “I’m sorry, sir. I’m afraid I don’t understand your question.”

    “When didn’t you say we couldn’t punish you? Don’t you understand my question?”

    “No, sir, I don’t understand.”

    “You’ve just told us that. Now suppose you answer my question.”

    “But how can I answer it?”

    “That’s another question you’re asking me.”

    “I’m sorry, sir. But I don’t know how to answer it. I never said you couldn’t punish me.”

    “Now you’re telling us what you did say. I’m asking you to tell us when you didn’t say it.”

    Clevinger took a deep breath. “I always didn’t say you couldn’t punish me, sir.”

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