The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

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Rhombic
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The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby Rhombic » Sat Jan 18, 2014 9:31 pm UTC

In this street there is one car that appears green for colourblind people, which is parked just in front of one newsagent's. A deaf fish swims around in a fish bowl.
Curiously enough, the world's most intelligent man ever and the world's most important philosopher (who are two separate men) are walking along this strange street.
The world's most intelligent man ever (we'll call him Steve from now on) asks a question to the deaf fish:
"Why is there a car that appears green for colourblind people parked just in front of this newsagent's?"

The philosopher finds no reason for this question, since Steve is not colourblind and he already knows that the fish is deaf. However, it is true that Steve is more intelligent than the philosopher. The philosopher thinks about whether the question itself was important by itself but, yet, finds no reason whatsoever. He realises that he can't be afraid of Steve because that would denote ignorance and foolishness. However, after asking a maximum of two yes or no questions, the philosopher manages to understand Steve. (It may be possible to ask two, one or no questions at all)
Last edited by Rhombic on Fri Jan 24, 2014 8:25 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby trickykungfu » Mon Jan 20, 2014 10:46 am UTC

One important question, before I spend time trying to puzzle this out:

Can all of the sentences in this puzzle be taken straightforwardly, or is parsing one or more sentences oddly part of the solution? For example, interpreting "for colourblind people" to refer to the car rather than its green appearance, or "fish bowl" meaning something besides a bowl for a fish to live in, or "fish" meaning something other than an actual living fish.

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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby Janitor of Fukushima » Mon Jan 20, 2014 12:32 pm UTC

well i have to read about the policies first I guess

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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby Gwydion » Tue Jan 21, 2014 3:49 am UTC

I see several potential ways to approach this:
Spoiler:
1. Are you working for the CIA?
2. Are the Russians listening in on your covert meeting with the guy posing as a fishbowl?
Spoiler:
1. Are you schizophrenic?
2. Did you take your medicine this morning?
Spoiler:
1. Is there a bomb implanted in your brain set to go off when you say certain words?
2. Is "red" one of those words?
This puzzle seems more "lateral thinking" than "logic" to me, though that isn't a bad thing by itself provided the eventual answer is a lot better than my not-so-serious suggestions. Alternatively, trickykungfu might be headed in the right direction - the phrases themselves seem like they might be carefully constructed to play with our expectations and assumptions, so maybe there is a way to read the puzzle that makes the solution clearer. We might need some more guidance from the OP, if that can be done without spoiling the whole thing.

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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby ConMan » Tue Jan 21, 2014 5:20 am UTC

Another question about the set-up:
Spoiler:
Does "intelligent" mean "knows lots of things"? In particular, is he expected to know about the colour of the car?
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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby Rhombic » Tue Jan 21, 2014 10:26 pm UTC

No, I'm not schizophrenic. This logic puzzle does have a definite answer, which is NOT oddly hidden in the actual puzzle. In fact, it doesn't matter whether it is a fish or a frog, or anything. Get rid of the messy plot which turns this into an obscure thing.
Intelligent means that he has the most advanced logical reasoning (for the purpose of most puzzles) and, say, he is also knowledgeable.

Sometimes the answer is more obvious than you think. Resignation might not be that bad after all if your attempts are not getting anywhere.
Spoiler:
Giving up is not always defeat. In fact, giving up may even end up being intelligent.

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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby Adam H » Tue Jan 21, 2014 10:41 pm UTC

Two questions? Ha! I could do it in one! Solution:
Spoiler:
What is the reason for that question, Steve?

BOOM nailed it.
-Adam

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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby Gwydion » Wed Jan 22, 2014 5:01 am UTC

Rhombic - I hope you didn't think my comments applied to you, I was providing examples of pairs of questions which, depending on the answers, could potentially "solve" the puzzle. In other words, suggesting that I couldn't see a way to deduce from the situation a unique solution. And joking aside, Adam H has a solution that doesn't even need a second question, and would satisfy the puzzle as stated (other than needing a second question) - is there a reason his answer is incorrect?

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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby Rhombic » Thu Jan 23, 2014 8:01 pm UTC

Gwydion wrote:Rhombic - I hope you didn't think my comments applied to you, I was providing examples of pairs of questions which, depending on the answers, could potentially "solve" the puzzle. In other words, suggesting that I couldn't see a way to deduce from the situation a unique solution. And joking aside, Adam H has a solution that doesn't even need a second question, and would satisfy the puzzle as stated (other than needing a second question) - is there a reason his answer is incorrect?

Don't worry, I don't take my life seriously :lol: hahaha by the way, I somehow thought that they were being applied to me LOL now, that changes everything hahahahahahaha my bad!
WHOOPS! The questions must be able to be answered by yes or no. Forgot to add it to the puzzle. Should I add it now, breaking the no-edit rule?

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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby jestingrabbit » Fri Jan 24, 2014 2:34 am UTC

Rhombic wrote:WHOOPS! The questions must be able to be answered by yes or no. Forgot to add it to the puzzle. Should I add it now, breaking the no-edit rule?


Yes, please do, with any other clarifying remarks you think might be important.
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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby TereziReadsXKCD » Sat Jan 25, 2014 2:06 am UTC

Two questions? Easy.
Spoiler:
What makes you think the fish knows the answer?


Spoiler:
Why do you not know the answer?

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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby madaco » Sun Jan 26, 2014 6:11 am UTC

TereziReadsXKCD wrote:Two questions? Easy.
Spoiler:
What makes you think the fish knows the answer?


Spoiler:
Why do you not know the answer?

Questions are required to be yes or no questions.
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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby mike-l » Sun Jan 26, 2014 7:28 am UTC

Spoiler:
The philosopher needs no questions, being a great logician himself he already knew the answer.
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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby Gwydion » Sun Jan 26, 2014 4:56 pm UTC

All of my not-serious answers before were yes/no questions and satisfy the rest of the problem requirements. Like I said before, I believe the OP must have a more appealing answer, but I find it hard to believe that answer logically and uniquely follows from the given information - unless there is some kind of wordplay I'm not seeing.

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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby Rhombic » Sun Jan 26, 2014 6:45 pm UTC

mike-l wrote:
Spoiler:
The philosopher needs no questions, being a great logician himself he already knew the answer.

This is actually the closest answer at the moment, though it is still quite far away from the actual one.
There might me more than one solution to the problem, though, I have not tried to look for every single path to solve this.

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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby chridd » Sun Jan 26, 2014 8:06 pm UTC

Spoiler:
Well, two yes/no questions have four possible responses (yes/yes, yes/no, no/yes, no/no), which would suggest that there are (at most) four plausible explanations (or places to look for more information)... whatever those four explanations are, the questions would be 1. is explanation A or B correct?, and 2. is explanation A or C correct?

Then the problem would be to figure out what the four explanations are.

...unless the philosopher happened to get lucky in only having to ask two questions, and might have to ask more or fewer depending on the actual reason.
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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby Moose Anus » Tue Jan 28, 2014 4:23 pm UTC

Spoiler:
The car is a firetruck. Normally they wouldn't park in front of a newsagents (news stand in US), but they have today because there's a fire. He asks the fish a question because if the deaf fish can read lips he probably shouldn't kill it, but if it can't read lips it's not worth much so he should use the water in the bowl to help put out the fire.
Lemonade? ...Aww, ok.

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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby Bloopy » Wed Jan 29, 2014 3:48 am UTC

2 explanations I've thought of, with a question written to suit:

Spoiler:
It's significant that the world's most intelligent man is not also the world's most important philosopher. The philosopher realises Steve could be trying to learn from him, so he asks:

Were you trying to communicate with the fish?

If no: By asking why these things are on this street, Steve posed an existential question. He knows the fish is deaf, and his real intent is for the world's most important philosopher to overhear and be intrigued. Steve is trying to gain wisdom from the philosopher. After all, he didn't become the world's most intelligent man ever by staying home and gardening.

If yes: a "resignation". The philosopher realises even the most intelligent man cannot know everything, nor live a flawless and thoroughly meaningful life. Either Steve behaves absurdly to gain what little extra tidbits of knowledge he still can and preserve his status as the world's most intelligent man ever, or he really was just trying to make idle chat with a deaf fish.

Alternatively, a 3rd explanation given the story doesn't explicitly tell us whether Steve knows the credentials of the other man:

Spoiler:
Steve is so stupendously intelligent that other men are about equal to the fish by comparison. Steve wanted to pose a philosophical question and was told he'd find the world's most important philosopher on this street, but not the philosopher's species. Since the fish hadn't just walked there, he guessed the fish was the philosopher and could read lips, knowing he only had to ask his question once since the man would overhear anyway. :P

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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby Rhombic » Thu Jan 30, 2014 9:41 pm UTC

Bloopy wrote:2 explanations I've thought of, with a question written to suit:

Spoiler:
It's significant that the world's most intelligent man is not also the world's most important philosopher. The philosopher realises Steve could be trying to learn from him, so he asks:

Were you trying to communicate with the fish?

If no: By asking why these things are on this street, Steve posed an existential question. He knows the fish is deaf, and his real intent is for the world's most important philosopher to overhear and be intrigued. Steve is trying to gain wisdom from the philosopher. After all, he didn't become the world's most intelligent man ever by staying home and gardening.

If yes: a "resignation". The philosopher realises even the most intelligent man cannot know everything, nor live a flawless and thoroughly meaningful life. Either Steve behaves absurdly to gain what little extra tidbits of knowledge he still can and preserve his status as the world's most intelligent man ever, or he really was just trying to make idle chat with a deaf fish.

Alternatively, a 3rd explanation given the story doesn't explicitly tell us whether Steve knows the credentials of the other man:

Spoiler:
Steve is so stupendously intelligent that other men are about equal to the fish by comparison. Steve wanted to pose a philosophical question and was told he'd find the world's most important philosopher on this street, but not the philosopher's species. Since the fish hadn't just walked there, he guessed the fish was the philosopher and could read lips, knowing he only had to ask his question once since the man would overhear anyway. :P


Spoiler:
Very interesting approach for the first explanation. In fact, your idea is very useful. You can also think that if he answers "yes" to the question, he might be lying to avoid the philosopher's suspicions about what Steve is trying to do.

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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby elasto » Thu Feb 06, 2014 4:01 am UTC

So what's the answer?

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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby Moose Anus » Thu Feb 06, 2014 5:49 pm UTC

elasto wrote:So what's the answer?
That depends. What's the question?
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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby Magnanimous » Thu Feb 06, 2014 6:55 pm UTC

Er, can you elaborate on the "appears green to colorblind people" aspect? There are a lot of types of colorblindness, so the car could be red or yellow (I think), or it could just be green.

Also, how does Steve know the fish is deaf?

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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby Rhombic » Thu Feb 06, 2014 8:21 pm UTC

Magnanimous wrote:Er, can you elaborate on the "appears green to colorblind people" aspect? There are a lot of types of colorblindness, so the car could be red or yellow (I think), or it could just be green.

Also, how does Steve know the fish is deaf?


Is it really necessary?

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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby elasto » Fri Feb 07, 2014 1:21 pm UTC

Moose Anus wrote:
elasto wrote:So what's the answer?
That depends. What's the question?


...?

From the opening post:

However, after asking a maximum of two yes or no questions, the philosopher manages to understand Steve.

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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby jewish_scientist » Fri Feb 07, 2014 3:31 pm UTC

I noticed that Rhombic always wrote "newsagent's" as opposed to "newsagents". This implied that the car that looks green to color-blind people is in front of another car that is owned by a reporter. Another thing:

Rhombic wrote:No, I'm not schizophrenic. This logic puzzle does have a definite answer, which is NOT oddly hidden in the actual puzzle. In fact, it doesn't matter whether it is a fish or a frog, or anything. Get rid of the messy plot which turns this into an obscure thing.
Intelligent means that he has the most advanced logical reasoning (for the purpose of most puzzles) and, say, he is also knowledgeable.

Sometimes the answer is more obvious than you think. Resignation might not be that bad after all if your attempts are not getting anywhere.
Spoiler:
Giving up is not always defeat. In fact, giving up may even end up being intelligent.


(I added the bold) Fish tend to be color-blind, but frogs tend not to be. So we know the important qualities of the fish are that 1:it is not color-blind and 2:it may or may not be intelligent enough to answer the question. A small child shares these qualities, so we can substitute him for the fish. That might make it easier to think about the riddle.

I don't have an answer, but no one posted about these things before. Hopefully someone else can use them to get the answer.

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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby DenisL704 » Mon Feb 10, 2014 6:01 am UTC

This seems too easy to be right, but it seems to work...

Spoiler:
Are you asking that question just to screw with my philosophical mind?

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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby Adam H » Mon Feb 10, 2014 10:22 pm UTC

elasto wrote:
Moose Anus wrote:
elasto wrote:So what's the answer?
That depends. What's the question?


...?

From the opening post:

However, after asking a maximum of two yes or no questions, the philosopher manages to understand Steve.
That's not a question. Is the question "what are the two questions?" or is it "what is the scenario the two men find themselves in?"

Solution:
Spoiler:
"Can you speak english?"

Presumably Steve will answer in English (it doesn't even matter whether he says yes or no, that's the beauty of the question ;) ) which will be understood by the English-speaking philosopher. Therefore the philosopher manages to understand Steve.


More serious thoughts:
Moose Anus wrote:
Spoiler:
The car is a firetruck. Normally they wouldn't park in front of a newsagents (news stand in US), but they have today because there's a fire. He asks the fish a question because if the deaf fish can read lips he probably shouldn't kill it, but if it can't read lips it's not worth much so he should use the water in the bowl to help put out the fire.
Spoiler:
I agree that a fire truck seems likely. Fire trucks can be either red or yellow, and both of those colors can appear green to colorblind people.

And using the water in the fish bowl to help put out the fire is an obvious thought. So then two questions could be something like:

"Do you think there is a fire?"
"Did you think the fish might have answered you?"


How about a solution?
-Adam

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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby elasto » Tue Feb 11, 2014 10:11 am UTC

Adam H wrote:That's not a question. Is the question "what are the two questions?" or is it "what is the scenario the two men find themselves in?"


ffs... Are you being deliberately obtuse?

Rule 3 of this forum states to provide the solution to a puzzle once people have had a decent go at solving it (or to state upfront if there is no solution).

When I asked what the answer was, a week had passed with noone contributing to this thread, and it had been almost 3 weeks since the puzzle was posted. Now more than 3 weeks have passed. It's more than enough time to for the opening poster to post the solution.

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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby Adam H » Tue Feb 11, 2014 1:03 pm UTC

elasto wrote:
Adam H wrote:That's not a question. Is the question "what are the two questions?" or is it "what is the scenario the two men find themselves in?"


ffs... Are you being deliberately obtuse?

Nope. So... which is it smartypants?

Also substitute "people" for "men". Was unintentionally sexist.
-Adam

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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby notzeb » Tue Feb 11, 2014 1:26 pm UTC

"Is P equal to NP?"
Spoiler:
"I don't know."
"Are you absolutely certain that you are the most intelligent man?"
Spoiler:
"No."
At that moment, the philosopher understood Steve.

Edit: An alternative solution that I suddenly like better:
Spoiler:
"Can you lip-read?"

Steve, the deaf fish, indicates a yes.

At this point the philosopher understands Steve. He then asks an additional question. "Is Steve colourblind?"

The fish indicates a no. In Steve's opinion, the philosopher ought to have been able to figure that one out himself!
Zµ«V­jÕ«ZµjÖ­Zµ«VµjÕ­ZµkV­ZÕ«VµjÖ­Zµ«V­jÕ«ZµjÖ­ZÕ«VµjÕ­ZµkV­ZÕ«VµjÖ­Zµ«V­jÕ«ZµjÖ­ZÕ«VµjÕ­ZµkV­ZÕ«ZµjÖ­Zµ«V­jÕ«ZµjÖ­ZÕ«VµjÕ­Z

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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby Rhombic » Tue Feb 11, 2014 10:00 pm UTC

I will give one of the possible solutions, already discovered by one of the posters, albeit around 85% of it.
STEVE NEVER EVER LIES WHEN HE KNOWS WHAT THE TRUTH IS (Therefore, for each question you ask you MUST be sure that Steve knows the answer)
Spoiler:
Q1: When you asked that question, did you know that I was here?
If "yes": Q2: Were you trying to obtain any knowledge from my philosophical point of view?
If "no": Q2: Did you expect an answer to your question?

Answers YY: Obvious answer.
Answers YN: Testing the philosopher, probably.
Answers NY: Run away, he's crazy! I don't count this as possible answers by the most intelligent man.
Answers NN: Openly thinking aloud.


There are other solutions as proposed by some friends of mine. In fact, I don't fully understand them myself (there might be a couple of details missing) but they do exist. So the problem doesn't end here (if you want to continue).

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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby thefargo » Wed Feb 12, 2014 12:55 pm UTC

Rhombic -
Spoiler:
Are you saying that is a valid solution? In your solution. every aspect of the riddle is a nonsequitor. The fact that there is a car, the color, the newsagent, the fish, that it is deaf - nothing has any effect on the solution. Even the idea that Steve is intelligent or the other is a philosopher aren't especially essential to this solution.

I just don't get why this is interesting.

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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby Rhombic » Wed Feb 12, 2014 9:07 pm UTC

thefargo wrote:Rhombic -
Spoiler:
Are you saying that is a valid solution? In your solution. every aspect of the riddle is a nonsequitor. The fact that there is a car, the color, the newsagent, the fish, that it is deaf - nothing has any effect on the solution. Even the idea that Steve is intelligent or the other is a philosopher aren't especially essential to this solution.

I just don't get why this is interesting.
I said it was one of the possible solutions.

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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby Adam H » Wed Feb 12, 2014 9:14 pm UTC

So basically the OP boils down to: "A person says something that doesn't make sense. What questions (yes or no) do you ask to determine whether they're picking your brain, checking your intelligence, or talking to themselves."
-Adam

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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby Bloopy » Wed Feb 12, 2014 11:31 pm UTC

thefargo wrote:I just don't get why this is interesting.


Well, some users came up with some fairly entertaining answers.

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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby Magnanimous » Thu Feb 13, 2014 1:24 am UTC

I do like the solution, but I think the question's fine by itself, yeah.

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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby Rhombic » Thu Feb 13, 2014 9:21 pm UTC

Spoiler:
The puzzle explores (for the answer I proposed, and, I insist, there are a few other ones left) the reader's ability to take out any useless information and work with the things that you need. Otherwise, Charles Dickens would be one of the worst novelists of all time since he described useless things. Furthermore, I would like to point out for many logic puzzles: ex contradictione sequitur quodlibet
You can use the "useless" information (I admit it, it's absolutely absurd) in this puzzle to solve it and create new conclusions. An excess of information creates new answers. My first solution uses just some pinches of information, while another solution may use other bits.

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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby jestingrabbit » Fri Feb 14, 2014 11:37 am UTC

Charles Dickens is one of the worst novelists of all time.

Think carefully before you post another puzzle. They are usually very spare and clear in design, with no extraneous parts, or at worst with the extraneous stuff well labeled.

btw, this colour denotes the voice of mod.
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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby Moose Anus » Fri Feb 14, 2014 4:06 pm UTC

If you have to explain what it means, then there's no point in using it. It's like cooking with EVOO (extra virgin olive oil).
Lemonade? ...Aww, ok.

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Re: The philosopher, the most intelligent man and the fish

Postby oxoiron » Tue Feb 18, 2014 7:28 pm UTC

jestingrabbit wrote:Charles Dickens is one of the worst novelists of all time.
Amen, Brother!
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