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Deceptively simple

Posted by Smokey Stover on August 05, 2008 at 01:43

In Reply to: Deceptively simple posted by ESC on August 04, 2008 at 21:30:

: : I have heard people use the phrase "deceptively simple" in situations that seem to have opposite meanings. Is it supposed to refer to something that is more complex than it appears on the surface, or something that appears complex but is actually simple?

: I have understood it to mean simple on the surface but actually quite complex. But I just asked a passer-by and he thought the opposite.

Just on the basis of logic, ESC's interpretation is the correct one. A deceptively simple situation or statement or plan is, by definition, simple. And equally by definition it is deceptively so, which can only mean that the simplicity is a deception. When we get into it we find more ramifications than seemed likely from the way it was stated.

Moral: stay away from plans which are too simple to be true, unless you have parsed all the ramifications first.

Keep in mind the words of H.L. Mencken: "There is always a well-known solution to every human problem--neat, plausible, and wrong." Another version is: "There is always an easy solution to every problem . . . ." And I've seen "There is always a simple solution, neat, plausible and wrong."