Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Disagreeable word use

At Huckleberries Online, a news item about a Marine ban on tattoos was posted with this question:
Do you agree with the ban?
This kind of setence construction has always bothered me. My understanding of the term "agree" is that it involves a consensus between two parties, usually human. When someone says "I'm hungry," and their companion says, "I agree," the words sound to me like the person is saying, "Yes, I agree that you are hungry," when in fact they probably mean, "I am also hungry." There are uses of the term that don't include people, for instance, "There is significant agreement between the data in the two papers," or "The clam chowder did not agree with my sensitive stomach," but my understanding is that these are metaphorical uses of the term. Further, there is sometimes a mismatch of person and non-person "agreements," but I've never seen it happen any other way than to say that "[object/non-human-entity] did not agree with me," rather than a person agreeing with the non-human party/object.

What would make more sense to me in the quoted sentence above, is "Do you approve of the ban?" or even, "Do you agree with the Marine officials that this ban is necessary?" I'm just curious if anyone else has this sense of the term "agree," or if I've misunderstood its meaning. I realize that on the whole, I still know what the writer meant, so I don't plan on pressing the issue exactly - it's just bugged me for quite some time.

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