ONLY Part 1

 “We have the truth; we only want to share it with you!”

Statement made by a proud building guide at the
dedication of a new religious building in California.

 

The placement of  "only" makes a difference.

  1. ONLY we have the truth; we want to share it with you!
  2. We ONLY have the truth; we want to share it with you!
  3. We have the ONLY truth; we want to share it with you!
  4. We have the truth; ONLY we want to share it with you!
  5. We have the truth; we ONLY want to share it with you!
  6. We have the truth; we want to ONLY share it with you!
  7. We have the truth; we want to share ONLY it with you!
  8. We have the truth; we want to share it with ONLY you!
But speakers are often careless about the placement of "only."  Who realizes that it makes a difference?  Who sees the possible ambuguities in meaning?

Usually context reveals the speakers intent. . . but sometimes it does not.

Let's find some examples to put in here:

  • God only knows!

Just how difficult is it to distinguish those various meanings?  Is it obvious which of the above goes with which of the following meanings?

A.  We’re not going to let go of it.
B.  We want nothing else.
C.  We want to share it with no one else.
D.  No one else wants to share it.
E.  Nothing we have is not truth.
F.  No one else has the truth.
G.  We will share nothing else.
H.  Nothing outside our beliefs is truth.

Are there any other positions for "only" that has a meaning different from the above?

Then, of course, we might hear this intended meaning:

We have the truth; we want to share it with you! . . .  ONLY . . .  If you don’t accept it, you will be condemned!
 


ONLY Part 2

Sept 17, 1999:

On PBS's "Morning Edition," Jewish authorities were reported to object to some Southern Baptist authorities using Rosh Hashanah for delivering a message (thru advertising) that only Christians have The Truth and that Jews should reflect on the fact that by not accepting Jesus they are doomed in eternity.

The Southern Baptist authority interviewed could see nothing wrong with his view and justified it (in part) by pointing out that they did the same thing to Muslims during Ramadan.
 


"Only" is a surprisingly tricky concept that flits in, out, and about the edges of human comprehension.

---Who shared our frustration with Erwin Schrödinger's misplaced "only" in that important paragraph in "What is Life?"---
 

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