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Say that someone asks you "What's the difference between those curves (see the image below)?"

enter image description here

Given the definition of a curve as being "a line or outline which gradually deviates from being straight for some or all of its length."

Can you formally answer with "One is orange and the other is blue."? Or because the color isn't a part of the definition of a curve such an answer is invalid?

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  • I think this question belongs more to Philosophy SE. From the linguistic point of view, you can totally answer "One is orange and the other is blue". Nov 10 '15 at 23:39
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this question should be migrated to Philosophy SE. Nov 10 '15 at 23:40
  • I see that in fact it is posted to Philosophy as well. Nov 10 '15 at 23:52
  • Color is one difference that could be commented on; another is phase; and a third is that one is a cosine and the other is a sine. You could be just as formal as you wanted to be with any of those answers, but you're not in charge of how what you say is interpreted.
    – jlawler
    Nov 11 '15 at 0:40
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it does not belong to linguistics. Nov 11 '15 at 8:30
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The appropriateness of a response derives from the context in which it is asked. If the context is a math class, then appeal to the formal definition of a curve would be appropriate and appeal to color would not be. If you were at a paint store, the opposite would be the case. Answering with a color answer in a math class would be literally true but also overly literal. Nevertheless, it is not totally inappropriate in a math class, since precision and explicitness are desiderata in mathematics, and asking "What is the difference..." is really a poor question, since one can refine the question without giving away the answer. One can omit the color difference, which is just a distractor.

One can answer that one is blue and the other is orange, but I don't think one can formally answer that way: but the question does not require you to answer formally.

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  • On the contrary, the question does ask about a formal answer.
    – Greg Lee
    Nov 10 '15 at 22:27
  • On the contrary, the question asks "What's the difference between those curves (see the image below)?", which say nothing about a formal mathematical difference.
    – user6726
    Nov 10 '15 at 22:39
  • The question you were asked was: 'Can you formally answer with "One is orange and the other is blue."?'
    – Greg Lee
    Nov 10 '15 at 23:12

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