View Single Post
Old 07/10/2006, 01:48 PM
tungsten_thorax tungsten_thorax is offline
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 35
Default Re: Something to get off my chest

The trouble with the 'half-full/half-empty' coundrum is that it relies upon a trick of language to appear meaningful.

Strictly speaking, 'half-full' and 'half-empty' mean exactly the same thing, regardless of whether the glass was emptied or filled immediately prior to the question being posed.

Put it this way, if I took a glass and filled it halfway with water in front of your eyes and then pronounced 'this glass is now half-empty', would anyone disagree? I suspect not.

The only thing 'wrong' with the above usage is that it is uncommon. Generally speaking, the choice between using 'half-full' or 'half-empty' is dictated by context. 'Half-empty' might suggest that the person expected the glass to contain more liquid, or that the the glass is currently being drained or whatever.

When you think about it, there is no real reason to use one or the other, we're just conditioned to seeing the 'half-empty' version as having a negative connotation.

In practice, no-one would actually use 'half-empty' or 'half-full' exclusively, so to ask the question in general terms is pointless.

Theoretically, however, it might be possible to formulate a question that did uncover a person's pessimism/optimism by providing a bit more context i.e. "in [INSERT SITUATION HERE] would you consider the glass 'half-empty' or 'half-full'?"

I'm not sure such a situation exists that would produce varying responses from people though.
Reply With Quote