Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I'm really lost for words...

For example, I like people with short hair. But then someone could say, so you hate people with long hair? But, of course, I did not give any information on people with long hair. I could've liked/hate it. What is this called? I'm sure there was a name to this, maybe an expression?

share|improve this question
1  
In philosophical circles, it's called a "false dichotomy": mind.ucsd.edu/syllabi/98-99/logic/falsedichotomy.html –  Dan Bron Aug 13 at 15:26
3  
And in Freudian psychoanalysis, if it’s not one thing, it’s your mother. –  tchrist Aug 13 at 15:37
    
This is the fallacy (assuming the duality long or short hair): If A, then B. // Not B . Therefore C (a subset of not A). –  Edwin Ashworth Aug 13 at 15:52
1  
This is a fallacy called affirming the consequent. Very similar to DumpsterDoofus' answer, but essentially the inverse of what he said. "If P, then Q. Q, therefore P." It assumes that, to have Q, you must have P, but it doesn't. It's the same as if you said all rectangles are squares (To be a square requires it to also be a rectangle, but to be a rectangle does not require it to also be a square). –  TylerH Aug 13 at 17:08
1  

4 Answers 4

This is commonly known as the fallacy of "denying the antecedent".

To see why this is the case, you can rephrase your statement as follows.

Let P be "A person has short hair", and let Q be "I like them."

Then by simple substitution, your friend's false assertion is logically equivalent to

P implies Q.

Not P.

Therefore, not Q.

This is the exact formal definition of denying the antecedent.

Here's the statement substitution:

"A person has short hair" implies "I like them".

"This person does not have short hair."

Therefore, "I do not like them".

share|improve this answer
1  
"Do not like" isn't necessarily "hate"; this is not a two-possibility scenario OP has described. –  Edwin Ashworth Aug 13 at 15:41
    
I've always learned it as affirming the consequent (which I think is distinct and better for this scenario) rather than the inverse that you describe here. –  TylerH Aug 13 at 17:04
1  
@TylerH: There is no Q therefore P claimed in this scenario. (It is logically equivalent to Not P, therefore not Q, the false claim made here, by virtue of being its contrapositive) –  Ben Voigt Aug 13 at 17:22
    
@EdwinAshworth "Do not like" wasn't what the OP described; he/she could have even liked long-hair people. –  seismatica Aug 13 at 20:00
    
@seismatica You're missing my point. I'm saying that if, using DD's algebra, Q = 'I like them', Q' doesn't = 'I hate them' but rather 'I don't [like them]' (I may have no feelings one way or the other). The hypothetical 'someone' OP posits 'hates them', which is not 'the alternative to liking them'. It's one alternative. –  Edwin Ashworth Aug 13 at 20:34

If someone made that assertion they would be constructing a false dichotomy.

share|improve this answer
1  
This is wrong. A false dichotomy is a failure to account for the existence of additional possibilities when asking someone to make a decision between several choices. In contrast, the OP is specifically asking for the word to describe the situation which is the logical negation of "affirming the consequent", aka "denying the antecedent". –  DumpsterDoofus Aug 13 at 15:31
    
It's implicit that there are only two options (love short hair/hate long hair) and this is a false dichotomy. But you're right, it's not entirely what OP is after. –  silves89 Aug 13 at 15:39
    
@silves89 Why can't 'he' be unmoved by people with long hair? –  Edwin Ashworth Aug 13 at 15:44
1  
This is somewhere between a false dichotomy and the classic cross-examination gotcha "So, is it true that you've stopped beating your wife?" (a loaded question). –  webXL Aug 13 at 15:46

You might be looking for non sequitur.

share|improve this answer
4  
It would be great of you to describe non sequitur and explain how it answers the question. –  TylerH Aug 13 at 17:10

This might not be exactly what you're looking for, but if I was being accused of hating long hair when I haven't said anything about long hair, I'd reply with something like "Quit putting words in my mouth." Therefore I'd say the colloquialism putting words in your mouth describes this scenario pretty well. It literally describes the act of claiming you said something which you never actually said.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.