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  • lucasbfoley

exclusive vs. inclusive interpretations - "real men love cats" (3:21)

Updated: Sep 26, 2021

Some phrases are susceptible to multiple interpretations. A common interpretive divide is between exclusive and inclusive interpretations, the former stemming from a scarcity mindset and the latter from abundance. E.g., a bumper sticker reads, "real men love cats." Does this mean that one is not a real man if he doesn't like cats? Or simply that there are real men who love cats? Depends on which interpretation you adopt.

Notice that the inclusive interpretation involves less twisting & supplementing, relying instead on the plain language iself. And yet, there's something in us that wants to read something into the phrase, to grasp at some deeper or hidden meaning, giving rise to the exclusive intrepretation that you're not a real man unless you love cats. Notice also the different emotional reactions that tend to gather around each interpretive type.

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