It wasn’t me! Really! (Key term: Really)

20 07 2011

Think of the child who is caught at the scene of a crime: standing, in shock, before a broken (and very expensive) vase. Or in the spirit of the recent conclusion of the Harry Potter series, the scene where Harry is found standing, all alone, before a petrified Mrs Norris.

The classic response follows: It wasn’t me! Really!

Why might the child add in the word, “really”? Does the term “really” make a difference to this statement? How so?

 

The word “really” changes the meaning subtly – it suggests that the child is trying extra hard to convince because he knows that the parent or adult who caught him is doubtful of his innocence.

Similarly, compare these two questions:

Are you going to study for Monday’s General Paper examination?
Are you really going to study for Monday’s General Paper examination?

The first has neutral connotations; the second shows an attitude of scepticism.

The fact that the word “really” makes a difference to one’s meaning tells us one thing: The term “really” cannot be ignored. If an essay question includes this key term, it must be dealt with.

Consider this question:

Will technology really save humankind?

While planning and writing this essay (or any essay with the key term “really”), ask yourself, how is my essay different from one that reads, “Will technology save humankind?” If you can answer this question, and you can identify differences between what you’re saying and what you would say if the word “really” were omitted, you’re probably on the right track. If you can’t see any difference, there’s a good chance you’re not engaging the term “really”.

Task A:

  1. Write an argument to show how technology will save humankind.
  2. Now write an argument to show how technology will really save humankind.
Task B:
  1. Write an argument to show how technology will not save humankind.
  2. Now write an argument to show how technology will not really save humankind.

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8 responses

30 08 2011
Apple

Does the same reasoning applies to questions with the term ‘truly’?

30 08 2011
Adrienne de Souza

Yes

Sent from my iPhone

29 10 2011
(8) The REALLY question [Analysis of 2000-2010 GCE 'A' Level questions] « read, think, write.

[…] the skill here and the recommended structure here. GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", […]

29 10 2011
(8) The REALLY question [Analysis of 2000-2010 GCE 'A' Level questions] « read, think, write.

[…] the skill here and the recommended structure here. GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", […]

7 11 2011
jace

TASK A:

For the majority, the environmental catastrophe is clearly the most plausible end-of-the-world scenario. The picture is depressing. Our only inhabitable planet will become inundated by rising sea levels. The natural resources Earth is endowed will finally be depleted. The word ‘biodiversity’ then will be used ironically. Worldwide, people will face the chilling possibility of starving to death. In response, some cynics may posit that technology is hardly the anodyne to save mankind from such a apocalypse. They argue that even today, the rate of environmental degradation by far surpasses the rate at which technology can alleviate the gamut of environmental problems that plagues mankind. This begs the question that resonates with skepticism. Will technology really save mankind from an environmental apocalypse?

I are inclined to believe that there is room for the optimism that technology will truly redeem mankind from an unthinkable environmental apocalypse, even if its effects on the environmental problems we face today is purely palliative. This is because technology catered to the fields of renewable energy and novel food sources is still in its nascent stage and has only just began to burgeon. As Al Gore, the world-renowned environmental activist, once remarked, renewable energy technology is only to get cheaper as world leaders make a clear commitment by shifting towards renewable energy. In turn, there is greater economic incentive for countries to invest in research and development for renewable energy. All these surely hardly bodes ill but bespeaks a hope that technology will save mankind from an environmental apocalypse.

In addition, it may also be argued that technology does not need to save mankind, since such extrapolation tend to be exaggerated ‘worst-case scenarios’. Hence while most scientists will agree that the health of our earth is taking a toll from irresponsible human activities, very few will concur on what the future of earth is going to be like. Hence I would argue that technology will indeed save mankind from an environmental apocalypse simply because it will continue to advance, and at an exponential rate. Thus, whether or not a terminus is a plausible outcome or not, it can be said without a doubt that technology is capable of redeeming us from the ‘fate’ of a diseased planet. The underlying premise of course, is that we are willing and committed to save ourselves.

Hi Ms Adrienne, please let me know if I’ve managed to address what is required! I would really appreciate it. And thank you for setting up such an awesome gp help site. I’m taking a levels as a private candidate and all these skill-based exercises have really helped prepare me for the upcoming exam!😀

Cheers, Jace

7 11 2011
Adrienne de Souza

HI Jace

I enjoyed reading this – you write well.

Yes, you’ve managed to meet requirements, as you started off by recognising the scepticism with a counter-argument and went on to rebut that:

[Counter-argument]] They argue that even today, the rate of environmental degradation by far surpasses the rate at which technology can alleviate the gamut of environmental problems that plagues mankind. This begs the question that resonates with skepticism.
[Rebuttal] This is because technology catered to the fields of renewable energy and novel food sources is still in its nascent stage and has only just began to burgeon. […] Hence I would argue that technology will indeed save mankind from an environmental apocalypse simply because it will continue to advance, and at an exponential rate.

However, I would make the logic links clearer. For instance, in your counter-argument, I’d add the idea that although technology has managed to address some of our environmental problems, the rate environmental degradation exceed the rate of technology fixing our environment (this way, you show the idea of “SEEMS to solve, but not REALLY”).

In addition, the link between your rebuttal and counter-argument should be clearer too – perhaps you could add that NOW it seems like environmental degradation exceeds its redemption through technology, but that’s only because it’s in its nascent stage, etc.

Hope that helps.

7 11 2011
pufferfishie

Hi Ms Adrienne,

THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH😀 i didn’t expect that you’d reply to my comment so quickly. and your kind words really encourage me and take away (a bit) of my anxiety :X i’ve taken note of how i can improve on my essays so thank you😀

Oh. Can i clarify if the word ‘save’ would come under what you call ‘atypical absolutes’? I was a little worried when i was writing the paragraph on technology not needing to ‘save’ mankind that i was reading too much into that word. Would you suggest that i include a paragraph on it anyway if i’m uncertain if the keyword in question is an absolute?

Cheers, Jace

8 11 2011
Adrienne de Souza

I actually skipped past that bit – when I read it, I wasn’t really sure what the purpose of it was, but there wasn’t anything wrong with it either, so it didn’t raise a red flag. To make it clearer, I would have signposted that point with something along the lines of:

Of course, the question assumes that the earth needs to be saved – something that scientists and environmentalists are not even in agreement on. While most agree that the environment is being degraded and the problems need to be addressed, whether the earth is headed towards an environmental apocalypse that requires true saving can be questioned.

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