Language: February 2005 Archives

Searching for Equal Rights

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Someone searched Google for "do women really enjoy equal rights" and got my Equal Rights and Gay Marriage post. I was wondering what the person was looking for, because that sentence is ambiguous. It could mean "do women really have equal rights?" That's a usage of 'enjoy' that seems to me to be departing from the English language, at least around here, but in parts of the English speaking world, particularly among more educated people, you might see it. I would lean against this interpretation, just because I can't imagine someone wanting to ask that question and wording it that way, but I guess it's possible.

It could also mean "do women really enjoy having equal rights?" or "would women really enjoy having equal rights?" assuming they don't have them. That was my first thought as to its meaning. After reflecting on that for a bit, I realized that there's another divergence of meaning, this time over 'equal rights'. It's not an abiguity, this time, though. The words 'equal' and 'rights' mean the same thing in both cases, but what counts as equal and what counts as rights are matters of debate, and that's why someone might even think to ask the question while others would think the answer is obvious. If certain things count as equal rights, then I don't see why women wouldn't enjoy them. If other things count as equal rights, I can understand why women wouldn't want them forced on them to make them be just like men in every way. Amazingly enough, the post this search led the person to, even though it's about gay rights, does get into that issue a little. If the person read far enough, this badly formed, ambiguous, open rather than quoted, sentence actually might have found the what the search was designed to find. Of course, it was on page two of the Google search (and now isn't even there anymore), so that lessens my surprise a bit.

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