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There was the following passage in New York Times’ (October 6) article commenting on GOP Presidential candidate, Carly Fiorina under the headline, ‘If she’s a feminist, then I’m a T. Rex’:

“Her record at Hewlett-Packard — firing skilled Americans by the thousands and outsourcing their jobs to China and India, while almost running her company into the ground with an ill-advised merger — is hardly a sterling record for any sort of candidate, assuming we actually want a president of all the people rather than a modern Ebenezer Scrooge, - - This is a woman who would deny other women control over their own bodies, as well. "If she’s a feminist then I’m a T. rex.”

According to Jurassic wiki, Tyrannosaurus rex, the most famous of all dinosaurs species and commonly known as T. rex, was the largest of the Tyrannosaur family — and by extension one of the largest theropods, reaching 12 to 13 meters in length.

But what does ‘If she’s a feminist, then I’m a T. Rex’ mean? Does the writer sarcastically admit herself being anachronistic? Why should it be a T.Rex, not other monsterous or supernatural creatures, say, Moby-Dick and Godzilla?

Is this a cute turn of phrase? Could you translate “I’m a T.rex” into plain English?

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    The idea is that "it's obvious that I'm not a T-Rex." It is a sarcastic way of saying "It's obvious that she is not a feminist." – herisson Oct 7 '15 at 2:28
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    I don't think that the selection of the T. Rex in particular is meaningful, although it's impossible to say for sure. I suspect it was just chosen because it's the most famous dinosaur, and everybody knows the dinosaurs are extinct, so it's really just "a statement that everybody knows is definitely not true". It's also a bit comical to imagine the author as a T. Rex. – Max Williams Oct 7 '15 at 8:39
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    @Kyslik Yoichi is Japanese, but that doesn't preclude him from being a valued, participating member here; you don't have to be a native speaker to be that. This is a good example of something that is obvious to a native speaker, but can be quite opaque even to someone with a generally good, yet non-native, command of English. If you're not familiar with the this archetypal, idiomatic formula, you won't recognise its manifestations. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 7 '15 at 8:41
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    Modus tollens, the rule of logic which states that if a conditional statement (if p then q) is accepted, and the consequent does not hold (not-q) then the negation of the antecedent (not-p) can be inferred. – Pål GD Oct 7 '15 at 8:55
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    @Kyslik sarcasm is one of the hardest things to recognize as a foreign language learner. You're trying so hard to get the literal meaning of things that metaphors and misdirection and sarcasm get lost in the effort. – Mitch Oct 7 '15 at 13:20

10 Answers 10

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All that that is saying is that she is no feminist whatsoever, being just as much of a feminist as the columnist is a giant extinct dinosaur.

That is, not at all.

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    Am I the only one that thinks this is a very weird comparison / metaphor? – michael_timofeev Oct 7 '15 at 3:24
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    It is ridicule. "She's a feminist" is equally as ridiculous as "I'm a T-Rex." It is a more genial way of saying the claim is totally specious without saying declaratively and more abrasively, "that is complete bullshit." – stevesliva Oct 7 '15 at 5:32
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    It's a very carefully chosen phrase. The writer could just as easily have chosen 'deckchair' or 'frying pan' or anything else that she obviously isn't. However, she knows that the first word that comes into most readers' heads when they see 'T.Rex' is DINOSAUR!. Without saying that Fiorina's views are monstrous and antediluvian, she plants that little suggestion. – JHCL Oct 7 '15 at 6:03
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    It has nothing to do with being old, or any particular characteristic of a T. rex aside from the speaker obviously not being one. You'll also hear variations like, "...then I'm the Pope" or, "...then I'm the King of England." – Kevin Krumwiede Oct 7 '15 at 8:00
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    @KevinKrumwiede I agree that this is used with near infinite variations, but also that some writers will attempt to add extra meaning by the object used, as JHCL has alluded to. That may or may not be the case here. – Arronical Oct 7 '15 at 9:27
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It's usually best not to read too much into "If X is a Y then I'm a Z." constructions. It's merely an emphatic and humorous way of saying "X is not a Y." The more ridiculous Z is, the more emphatic the statement is.

Z (a T-Rex) isn't being compared to X (Carly Fiorina) but to the writer and then that difference is being compared to the difference between X and Y (Former CEO of HP, and a feminist). So the specific nature of Z (A large, extinct therapod dinosaur) isn't really relevant so much as how much it contrasts with the writer (presumably a human).

A T-Rex may have been chosen merely because the recent movie Jurassic World brought dinosaurs to mind. If so, and if the the writer had wanted to be more emphatic the comparison might have been "then I'm T-Rex stranded on Mars." That's even more ridiculous (And references another recent movie) and therefore the overall statement would be an even more emphatic statement of disbelief in Fiorina being a feminist.

That doesn't rule out a deeper intent by the author but at best that's uncertain unless she says otherwise.

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    This is the only answer so far to address that the statement was merely one example of a common (sarcastic) idiom, rather than focus on the specific item at hand. If that doesn't earn you a +1, then I'm a ham sandwich. – cobaltduck Oct 7 '15 at 13:22
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    @cobaltduck: No, you're a blue duck. – Pyritie Oct 7 '15 at 14:06
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    Made a typo at the end of the first paragraph I think. Should be the more ridiculous Z is. – Shane Oct 7 '15 at 14:58
  • In many such constructions, there is an implication that for a sense of reality sufficiently distorted as to make X seem like a Y, would make some other object (or the speaker) seem like a Z. In general, though, when Y clearly has more of some quality than X, Z would have more of that quality [if that guy's the next (good player) than I'm the next (best player)"] I'm not quite sure what traits a dinosaur has in greater abundance than a feminist, however. – supercat Oct 7 '15 at 17:37
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    This is called "Contraposition". – zzzzBov Oct 8 '15 at 15:07
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It is a hyperbole used intentionally. The purpose of the obvious exaggeration is to attract the reader's attention to the fact that she is by no means a feminist.

  • a deliberate exaggeration used for effect.
  • an extravagant statement or figure of speech not intended to be taken literally, as “to wait an eternity.”

The Free Dictionary

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3

It means

She is as irrelevant to feminism as I am to being an obsolete dinosaur.

There is functional redundancy in this statement. A two pronged attack on her.

  1. She is as obsolete to being a feminist as I am as obsolete a raging dinosaur.
    OK, say I am a dinosaur, then she is as obsolete as I am, to the reality of being a feminist.

  2. She is as impossible in being a feminist as I am impossible in being a raging dinosaur.

What is functional redundancy?

Functional redundancy has nothing to do with Grammar Girl's admonishment against repetitive redundancy, as discussed in the comments in this question: Future prediction.

Let me repeat a comment here: Functional redundancy is when two functions crisscross each other, without regard to intents to being redundant, but nevertheless whose incident redundancy increases the robustness of a system (in this case, an argument).

A functional redundancy in a push-pull state, is a situation wherein a statement presents two ideas (or two extremities of the possibilities of an idea), such that rejecting one idea/extremity results in admitting the other idea/extremity, vice versa.

IF you think my statement had meant to say that I am impossible to being a raging dinosaur, than my statement would imply the impossibility of her being a feminist.

OTOH, if you think my statement had meant to accuse myself as being an obsolete raging dinosaur, than she too is as obsolete to being a feminist. Either way you interpret the statement, she loses.

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    None of this makes any sense. – jwg Oct 8 '15 at 17:02
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It's an odd coincidence, but I teach this type of construction to 2nd graders when reading the popular children's book Burnt Toast on Davenport Street by Tim Egan. It's from 1997, and in it the main character responds to an assertion that a fly is a magic fly by saying, "Yeah right, and I'm a tyrannosaurus rex."

It's pretty consistently a puzzler for the kids, as most can identify the sense of it, but only a few can articulate why the character might express himself in that way.

An overtone that I don't think has been mentioned yet is the speaker's anger or irritation at being asked to accept a ridiculous claim, and return of the insult. I would paraphrase it as "if you think I'm stupid enough to believe [your ridiculous claim] then you must be stupid enough to believe [my ridiculous counter-claim]."

Link to book: http://tinyurl.com/npfyokt

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It is an Adynaton, a figure of speech in the form of hyperbole taken to such extreme lengths as to insinuate a complete impossibility.

Some common English examples are "... when pigs fly." or "... then I'm a monkey's uncle." The T. Rex line is probably invented by the speaker, I've never heard that phrase before.

He's saying she is not a feminist.

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The phrase was likely invented by the speaker, but its intent is to express that the subject in question is not a feminist.

Other more common turns of phrase could be:

If she is a feminist, than hell has frozen over.

or

She'll be a feminist when pigs fly.

To put it another way, in a universe in which the statement "She's a feminist" is true, it must be an alternate universe where fundamental truths are untrue.

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  • 'than' -> 'then' – Mitch Oct 7 '15 at 21:44
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If the statement
"If X then Y"
is true, then
"If not Y, then not X "
is also true.

So, if the statement
"If she’s a feminist then I’m a T. rex."
is true, then
"If I'm not a T. rex, then she's not a feminist"
is true.

If this statement is true, and the assumption that I'm not a T. rex is true, then it follows that she is not a feminist.

Therefore, as other have said, it's just a cheeky way of saying "She's not a feminist".

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As others have said, the statement "If she's a feminist, I'm a T. Rex" means "she's not a feminist".

As to the subtext of your question, the use of "T. Rex" is totally arbitrary. It could just as easily be any other ridiculous thing:

  • "If she's a feminist, I'm a ham sandwich"

  • "If she's a feminist, I'm Mary Poppins"

  • "If she's a feminist, I'm Superman"

  • "If she's a feminist, I'm a martian"

And so on. It doesn't matter what object you use, as long as it is absurd. The idea you're trying to convey is that it is as absurd to call her a feminist as it is to call yourself a dinosaur, a ham sandwich, Mary Poppins, Superman, a martian, or whatever else.

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Carly Fiorina is being attacked by feminists for her pretty negative comment on Planned Parenthood as she insisted at the CNN GOP primary debate that this organization is cruelly killing unborn babies to sell their organs for research.

A vidoe footage on which she based her claim was found doctored by fact-checkers. Some Republican governors defunded Planned Parenthood in their states and they are fighting hard to defund it at a national level.

This is what makes Carly Fiorina an anti-feminist and the author is using metaphor with the least possible thing that anyone can be if she is a feminist.

REX of T-rex means a King and what a better metaphor to attack her who wants to be POTUS (President of the United States).

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