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Nuances of language March 6, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in CMU, humor.
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As I was walking through campus last week, a poster about an author’s visit stared at me. It said :

Join author Lee Gutkind in 5700 Wean Hall at 3:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 27, for a book signing and presentation, on “Almost Human, Making Robots Think,” a new book he’s written about the people and projects at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute, to be published March 19 by W.W. Norton & Co.

The book centers around five principal characters–three Institute faculty members, another from the Mellon College of Science and a NASA scientist, as well as dozens of other RI faculty, students and staff members. Gutkind spent four years in the bowels of the Institute, observing its inhabitants day and night, attending their meetings, and traveling to odd places to view the progress of their research.

…which was okay, until I saw the next sentence.

He discovered that few obstacles are too great for our enterprising graduate students.

I remember thinking to myself how true that was – there are some things we just can’t do for various reasons – technical, adminstrative, personal, financial and the like. Today, I am sitting with a campus newspaper that has a story on the book/author. And now I see the sentence.

He discovered that few obstacles are too great for our enterprising graduate students.

And now I think – how true ! Graduate students are so hardworking and dedicated that there are hardly things we can’t do. 🙂

Its the same very sentence, its where you put the stress – on the word “too” or the word “few” – which does not show up in writing. I know there are several examples – complexity and nuances of language, but experiencing firsthand is another thing and this still is another one to what I am sure is a growing list.

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