1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

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1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby rhomboidal » Fri Sep 14, 2012 4:07 am UTC

Image

Title Text: But then the Ghost of Subjunctive Past showed up and told me to stay strong on 'if it were'.

I wonder if grammar ghosts get invited to the popular Halloween parties.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby McTricks » Fri Sep 14, 2012 4:13 am UTC

First I read today's cyanide and happiness, then this.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby dash » Fri Sep 14, 2012 4:15 am UTC

I don't get it.
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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby undecim » Fri Sep 14, 2012 4:28 am UTC

I used gimp and the "Difference" mode to make sure that they were really the same, and found that the two futures were literally half a pixel offset from each other.
Blue, blue, blue

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby pregnant-cockroach » Fri Sep 14, 2012 4:33 am UTC

I've never understood why otherwise-reasonable people get up in arms over the correct use of "literally". To my mind, when I say "I literally shat bricks with excitement," I'm using hyperbole to make a point. The technically-incorrect usage of "literally" is part of the hyperbole.

Since when does every utterance have to be factually correct or even possible? That's semantics, not grammar.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby blowfishhootie » Fri Sep 14, 2012 4:42 am UTC

dash wrote:I don't get it.


It doesn't make any difference at all if someone uses the word "literally" to your liking, so it's just not worth arguing over.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby PolakoVoador » Fri Sep 14, 2012 4:44 am UTC

undecim wrote:I used gimp and the "Difference" mode to make sure that they were really the same, and found that the two futures were literally half a pixel offset from each other.


2 Internet points for you. Nice work.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby black_hat_guy » Fri Sep 14, 2012 5:01 am UTC

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He isn't any more.
What he thought was H2O
was H2SO4.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby MadH » Fri Sep 14, 2012 5:29 am UTC

I like "literally". I tend to tack it on the end of descriptions about events where it serves as a punctuation that I am not stretching the truth or that whatever I just said was not hyperbole. It really works rather well in making an impression, especially since putting it as an afterthought instead of as a descriptor in the middle of a sentence makes people believe it.

As to others using it about things that aren't 100% true, I am a bit dissapointed. Irked, might be the word. But what can you do? The future would only be exactly one half pixel shifted, after all...

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby San Fran Sam » Fri Sep 14, 2012 5:50 am UTC

undecim wrote:I used gimp and the "Difference" mode to make sure that they were really the same, and found that the two futures were literally half a pixel offset from each other.


Oh the horror! The horror!

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby San Fran Sam » Fri Sep 14, 2012 5:54 am UTC

MadH wrote:I like "literally". I tend to tack it on the end of descriptions about events where it serves as a punctuation that I am not stretching the truth or that whatever I just said was not hyperbole. It really works rather well in making an impression, especially since putting it as an afterthought instead of as a descriptor in the middle of a sentence makes people believe it.

As to others using it about things that aren't 100% true, I am a bit dissapointed. Irked, might be the word. But what can you do? The future would only be exactly one half pixel shifted, after all...


I've started making a mental note to say "figuratively" when i'm tempted to say "literally". I am waiting for the situation where it is correct to say "literally" but i will say "figuratively" anyway. I just hope it doesn't take 18 years.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby Adacore » Fri Sep 14, 2012 6:22 am UTC

Double posting in the xkcd fora is figuratively against the rules? :wink:

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby MonkeyBoy » Fri Sep 14, 2012 6:25 am UTC

I've taken to saying "figuratively" even when I should say "literally," just because it's fun to see the reactions.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby Emperor_Z » Fri Sep 14, 2012 6:50 am UTC

I will never give up the fight! I wanna live in the future where I can use "literally" without having to clarify if I'm being literal or not.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby J L » Fri Sep 14, 2012 6:57 am UTC

Neat. Although I felt the last line was literally (?) unnecessary -- "oooooooooooooooo" being such a nice punchline for the ghost.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Sep 14, 2012 7:05 am UTC

pregnant-cockroach wrote:To my mind, when I say "I literally shat bricks with excitement," I'm using hyperbole to make a point. The technically-incorrect usage of "literally" is part of the hyperbole.


The problem is this:

MadH wrote:I tend to tack it on the end of descriptions about events where it serves as a punctuation that I am not stretching the truth or that whatever I just said was not hyperbole.


We need a way of saying "and that's not hyperbole or any other figure of speech, I actually, really, literally mean that". When you say "I shat bricks", that's hyperbole, when it's understood that you did not, literally, shit bricks. If you want to clarify that you were not being hyperbolic, and you actually did, really, in fact, shit actual, real bricks, what do you say? "Literally", or something of similar meaning like "really" or "actually". But it seems that our repertoire of words for saying that is being gradually consumed by the process that now threatens "literally", and this battle may be one of the last stands before they're all gone.
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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby Adacore » Fri Sep 14, 2012 7:09 am UTC

I think it's an unavoidable truth that whenever there's a word that serves the purpose of saying 'this is not hyperbole', that word can automatically also be used to make the hyperbole stronger.

After all, the definition Google gives me for 'hyperbole' is: "Exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally." Surely that means that when we use it in a hyperbole, the word 'literally' is not meant to be taken literally?

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby Phasma Felis » Fri Sep 14, 2012 7:16 am UTC

dash wrote:I don't get it.

...

There's not much to the joke, so I'm going to go way out on a limb and assume you actually don't understand, and also that you aren't trolling.

The word "literally" is not an intensifier. It means "this is actually what happened, I am not using hyperbole." If you say without irony "I am literally shitting bricks" and there are not actual bricks emerging from your asshole, you are doing it wrong.

Yes, I know a handful of you are misusing it ironically. That'd be great if everyone else understood that, but a lot of people genuinely don't, and "literal vs. figurative" is a really useful notion that we need to be able to communicate effectively about. This isn't just a "linguistic drift happens" thing like "whom" becoming "who", this is a word that uniquely describes a valuable concept being gradually erased from popular understanding. It's not the end of the world, but it contributes to inarticulate communication in a small, real way.

...And now every time I try to explain this, someone's just gonna post this comic as if it were an actual rebuttal. So, y'know, that figuratively sucks.
Last edited by Phasma Felis on Fri Sep 14, 2012 7:57 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby fifiste » Fri Sep 14, 2012 7:46 am UTC

yep. I understand that literally is a great hyperbole. The problem is if we don't designate one "really", "truly" , "this is fucking actually literally happening right now please please why wont you listen to me.!!!" word then it will become near impossible to quickly without ambiguity describe that the info that im giving you is literally the truth, especially in the situations of muffled/distorted/no-sound(written text frex.) and no body language.

There could be an alternative in this ghost story about a world where a terrible tragedy has happened. I can imagine it something like that. A figure listening to a crackling radio -"Jones!Jones! You got to do it NOW! We are LITERALLY dying out here!", "Heh, what funny-bones , you really crack me up boys!".

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby thepauly » Fri Sep 14, 2012 8:00 am UTC

undecim wrote:I used gimp and the "Difference" mode to make sure that they were really the same, and found that the two futures were literally half a pixel offset from each other.


Am I the only one to notice that a difference in pixels would literally have to be a whole number?

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby sellyme » Fri Sep 14, 2012 8:06 am UTC

thepauly wrote:
undecim wrote:I used gimp and the "Difference" mode to make sure that they were really the same, and found that the two futures were literally half a pixel offset from each other.


Am I the only one to notice that a difference in pixels would literally have to be a whole number?


Not quite. For a minute, let's imagine I have two pictures. I blow one up to double the size (so, instead of being say, 100x100, it's now 200x200), and then move it 1 pixel to the right. I then resize it back to 100x100.

What happens?
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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby Quicksilver » Fri Sep 14, 2012 8:31 am UTC

Reminds me of Archer, and how he always got figuratively and literally wrong.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby orthogon » Fri Sep 14, 2012 8:52 am UTC

undecim wrote:I used gimp and the "Difference" mode to make sure that they were really the same, and found that the two futures were literally half a pixel offset from each other.

OK, I can't resist walking right into this.

Half a pixel vertically? Surely they're like a few hundred pixels offset horizontally? Or do you mean the pictures are in a different position relative to their frames? Also, they differ in the speech bubbles, although these are conceptually separate from the images of the future; did you remove them before doing the comparison? I demand more details of your method!
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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby melgior » Fri Sep 14, 2012 8:54 am UTC

McTricks wrote:First I read today's cyanide and happiness, then this.

I did the exact same thing. For everybody else:
http://www.explosm.net/comics/2923/

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby da Doctah » Fri Sep 14, 2012 8:57 am UTC

San Fran Sam wrote:I am waiting for the situation where it is correct to say "literally" but i will say "figuratively" anyway. I just hope it doesn't take 18 years.


We need a word that means what "literally" literally means. I was once telling someone about the stray cat who, instead of taking off like someone was chasing him, stretched out and watched me ride my exercise bike. After ten minutes, I literally put him to sleep.

Expressions of shock and horror! How could I have a cat euthanized just because it was watching me work out?

No, dummy. He got so bored after ten minutes of me doing the same movements over and over again he actually dozed off.

If you want a word to mean "I'm emphasizing how strongly I feel about what I'm describing", pick a different word. Don't screw up one that already means something else so we can't use it without causing misunderstandings. If I may be so bold as to offer a suggestion, how about the word "kohlrabi"? It doesn't get used enough as it is, and you won't have to keep explaining which meaning you're actually going for.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby odexios » Fri Sep 14, 2012 8:59 am UTC

sellyme wrote:
thepauly wrote:
undecim wrote:I used gimp and the "Difference" mode to make sure that they were really the same, and found that the two futures were literally half a pixel offset from each other.


Am I the only one to notice that a difference in pixels would literally have to be a whole number?


Not quite. For a minute, let's imagine I have two pictures. I blow one up to double the size (so, instead of being say, 100x100, it's now 200x200), and then move it 1 pixel to the right. I then resize it back to 100x100.

What happens?

I'd guess the pc would lose some precision and move the image; if the basic unity is a pixel a pc can't divide it in half pixels, can it?

I'd say he used literally figuratively.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby operationeisenfaust » Fri Sep 14, 2012 9:22 am UTC

da Doctah wrote:If you want a word to mean "I'm emphasizing how strongly I feel about what I'm describing", pick a different word.


Damn straight. In absolute terms, there's no problem with using literally to create hyperbole. The problem is, it has become a rhetorical device that is used far too frequently. Some people seem to use it several times a day, and the repetition literally drives me up the wall.

When someone speaks eloquently and freshly, making precise and intelligent use of language, I think it enriches life as we experience it. I know we can't all talk like some kind of Jean-Luc Picard/Elizabeth Bennet hybrid - I am guilty of barely being able to construct a coherent sentence at times - but that doesn't mean we should just give up and let language degrade into some kind of phatic grunting or 1984's Newspeak.

What you can't see in this comic is what is coming out of the left stick character's mouth in the third frame, which I daresay would be something along the lines of:
"So, I was like walking along the road and then I saw John and he was like "You should of referred the questions to myself, seriously" and I was like "Oh my god, no way"."

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby Patrik3 » Fri Sep 14, 2012 11:03 am UTC

Ah, people have already said what I was going to say about literally. I try to discourage my brother from correcting people when they accidentally say split infinitives or when they put a preposition at the end of a sentence because worrying about that makes him look like a knob.

But the reason people chose "literally" in the first place is because they wanted a word to describe something that's actually happening, so it's really ironic that it's now being used not just incorrectly, but completely in opposite to what it's meant to mean. (Although, specifically, "literally" isn't the same as "actually" - it means "it's true in writing" or something...)

I don't think the two worlds would look exactly the same. If he saw any people walking by in the second world, they would all be puzzled by what is really true and what is "really" true. People would have to take more time trying to communicate whether they were lying about something or not.

da Doctach wrote: I was once telling someone about the stray cat who, instead of taking off like someone was chasing him, stretched out and watched me ride my exercise bike. After ten minutes, I literally put him to sleep.


I'm not sure this is quite the right example. Here, "literally" can be used correctly or not, independently of the meaning of "put him to sleep". "Put him to sleep" is the main phrase in the sentence with two meanings, and also, it implies something active - you actively tucked the cat into bed and gave him some warm milk. Since cats can look after themselves, you probably didn't do that, which further leads people to think that you mean "killed him", since this meaning is definitely active.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby Oflick » Fri Sep 14, 2012 11:22 am UTC

people using literally correctly is worse than people who say "if it was".

But I'm biased because I always say "if it was".

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby bassguy » Fri Sep 14, 2012 11:49 am UTC

I wonder if this would still be humorous (to a native speaker) if it were literally translated? And I guess I also mean "actually," although I actually mean literally.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby cellocgw » Fri Sep 14, 2012 12:07 pm UTC

pregnant-cockroach wrote:I've never understood why otherwise-reasonable people get up in arms over the correct use of "literally". To my mind, when I say "I literally shat bricks with excitement," I'm using hyperbole to make a point. The technically-incorrect usage of "literally" is part of the hyperbole.

Since when does every utterance have to be factually correct or even possible? That's semantics, not grammar.


For one thing, that's not hyperbole. It's just plain misuse. But, heck, while we're at it, why not give up over "comprised of," " very unique," "consensus" vs "concensus", "consensus of opinion," "begs the question [followed by a new question]," usage of "you and I" vs "you and me" as subjects and objects, "impact" vs "effect" vs "affect," ... I'm too tired already to list any more.
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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby cellocgw » Fri Sep 14, 2012 12:09 pm UTC

thepauly wrote:
undecim wrote:I used gimp and the "Difference" mode to make sure that they were really the same, and found that the two futures were literally half a pixel offset from each other.


Am I the only one to notice that a difference in pixels would literally have to be a whole number?

I hope so, since that's literally not true. Re-process the image at 2X resolution, shift, downscale, and viola!
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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby AvatarIII » Fri Sep 14, 2012 12:16 pm UTC

this thread figuratively contains the most double posting I have ever seen on this entire forum.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby EpicanicusStrikes » Fri Sep 14, 2012 12:23 pm UTC

pregnant-cockroach wrote:I've never understood why otherwise-reasonable people get up in arms over the correct use of "literally". To my mind, when I say "I literally shat bricks with excitement," I'm using hyperbole to make a point. The technically-incorrect usage of "literally" is part of the hyperbole.

Since when does every utterance have to be factually correct or even possible? That's semantics, not grammar.


Because the word 'literally', even when used correctly, is just bad writing. It almost never adds anything to a sentence.

I ate an apple.

I literally ate an apple.

I started my car.

I literally started my car.

I am typing this now.

I am literally typing this now.

I just, literally, hit the return key.


The only time it should even be in a sentence is when there is a chance of hyperbole being assumed.

I shit my pants.

I literally shit my pants. Fortunately, I always keep a clean pair at the office because of my crohn's disease.

I freaked out.

I literally freaked out. They sedated me quickly, however, and now I'm in the mental health ward of that hospital downtown. Can you bring me a clean pair of pants?


Serious. Don't use that word unless you literally have to do so in order for the sentence to communicate effectively.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby goofy » Fri Sep 14, 2012 12:26 pm UTC

All language is figurative to some extent. Why is literally the only word we're not supposed to use figuratively?

Where are all the examples of confusion and communication breakdowns caused by using literally as a figurative intensifier?

Here's a thought: the literal meaning of literally is "by the letter, letter for letter" as in "I copied the text literally". So every time we use literally to mean "not figuratively", we're using it figuratively.

Nothing is happening to literally that hasn't already happened to really, truly, very, seriously.

Patrik3 wrote:I don't think the two worlds would look exactly the same. If he saw any people walking by in the second world, they would all be puzzled by what is really true and what is "really" true. People would have to take more time trying to communicate whether they were lying about something or not.


People would be puzzled about what is really true simply because of the meaning of one word? I'm glad I don't live in that world.

This is worth reading
Last edited by goofy on Fri Sep 14, 2012 1:08 pm UTC, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby Vroomfundel » Fri Sep 14, 2012 12:34 pm UTC

I feel your pain, "literally" defenders, and you raise pretty good points. Resistance is futile, however - the forces of ignorance are too strong and people attempting to make their hyperboles stronger resort to the infinite hyperbole - which is what "literally" is. People get desensitized by hyperboles and they come up with stronger and stronger expressions, raising the dramatic effect like a tangens function approaching kπ. Only when they literally say "this is not a hyperbola" by using 'literally' do they get to hit tg0 - and this, I'm afraid, is a natural transformation of speach as I see it happening in other languages in pretty much the same way.
Grammar, after all, has the purpose to formalize the rules already in place in the spoken and written language, so it needs to adapt - albeit conservatively - to reflect reality and suit the language being actively in use; oherwize we would still be having the news in Shakespearean English.

A similar process is at play with the racial demonyms - when people have prejudices they subconscsiously imbue them into the words they use to the point where the word becomes politically incorrect and needs to be replaced; first there were coloured people, then the semi-scientific negroes, then blacks, and now I hear across the pond people are encouraged to use "African-Americans"... how they distinguish between Africans and African-Americans when they need to refer to someone they don't know is unclear to me but that's their own problem, so far no one has demanded that we call black people African-Europeans.
Last edited by Vroomfundel on Fri Sep 14, 2012 12:37 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby Angelastic » Fri Sep 14, 2012 12:35 pm UTC

Patrik3 wrote:I don't think the two worlds would look exactly the same. If he saw any people walking by in the second world, they would all be puzzled by what is really true and what is "really" true. People would have to take more time trying to communicate whether they were lying about something or not.

Even then, the worlds would only be different if the fight actually succeeded in preventing that in the first world.
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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby doogly » Fri Sep 14, 2012 12:43 pm UTC

I agree with the comic 100%. Nobody should give a shit about "literally." The subjunctive is my favorite grammar nibble.
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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby mathmannix » Fri Sep 14, 2012 12:52 pm UTC

da Doctah wrote:We need a word that means what "literally" literally means. I was once telling someone about the stray cat who, instead of taking off like someone was chasing him, stretched out and watched me ride my exercise bike. After ten minutes, I literally put him to sleep.

Expressions of shock and horror! How could I have a cat euthanized just because it was watching me work out?


Whoa, whoa, whoa! It is completely inconsistent for someone to try to take your statement literally (because you used that word, naturally) and interpret it to mean that you killed the cat. "Putting [something/ someone?] to sleep" literally means just that. It can figuratively mean euthanizing, but that is interpreting it as a euphemism. (If I said "I literally kicked the bucket", I would expect people to understand that I made contact between my foot and a pail, not that I died. Because, obviously, I didn't die, I'm here talking to you...)
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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby VectorZero » Fri Sep 14, 2012 12:53 pm UTC

doogly never wrote:I agree with the comic 100%. Nobody should literally give a shit about "literally." The subjunctive is my favorite grammar nibble.

T,FTFY
mathmannix wrote:Whoa, whoa, whoa! It is completely inconsistent for someone to try to take your statement literally (because you used that word, naturally) and interpret it to mean that you killed the cat.
That's kinda the point.
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