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Sophie's Choice
Double entente?
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Twice in one day!

I was presented with a computer dialog on which one of the buttons was Cancel. I wanted to cancel, so I clicked the Cancel button. I was presented with a second dialog that informed me: “You have clicked the Cancel button.” This new dialog had two buttons on it: Continue and Cancel.

Which do you click?

Now, since I wanted to cancel, there was little consequence if I chose incorrectly. But what if the original click was mistaken? What if I absolutely shouldn’t cancel this on penalty of a career-ending catastrophe? How confident are you now?

I forget which did what, but I know I picked the wrong one first. (And maybe second, too, because I didn’t frankly remember which one I clicked first, and I picked it again.) I could rationalize either outcome for either button.

The ubiquitous OK and Cancel are not much better. Maybe a little bit better.

Is it just me?

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The choice of the title is absolutely wrong if by it you mean ‘ambiguous,’ ‘puzzling,’ or anything like that. In that movie the question could not be clearer, and it was not even about finding the right answer.
It’s possible that after you have clicked the Cancel button, it now has returned to a previous question that also has a Cancel button to cancel it. But it is bad design either way.
I get by ok with most bank and credit card dialogs. I guess language, human or machine, is not all vocabulary and grammar, but a lot about presentation.


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Glenn, I know which button I would have chosen, but I admit I’d have to think about it a bit first.

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To me, it seems that every cancel button in a dialog is related to your previously chosen action.

But one thing I learned from this post, actually corrected my previous learning, was ‘double entente’. I’d learned it Norman Lewis’s Word Power Made Easy’ (which is a great book) as double entendre. And before I reply here, checked it and found a note that said ‘double entendre’ didn’t exist in French and that the correct form was ‘double entente’. When I thought, I found it right, since ‘entendre’ is the ‘infinitive’ and doesn’t make sense in that combination.  


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Double entendre is perfectly acceptable in English, but not in modern French. You will find it in many English dictionaries. Double entente is not really English at all, but French. In English, strictly speaking, I would be correct to use double entendre and not use double entente. I just can’t.
Webster’s double entendre

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