‘The scribe,’ he said sarcastically. So they were reading my work again, and of course they had suffered the fate of all snoops — they were upset by what they had discovered.
– Peter Carey, Amnesia (2014)
ringer, n. 2.Also called: dead ringer a person or thing that is almost identical to another
It’s easy to misconstrue what we see. So easy, in fact, that eyewitnesses are not regarded as terribly reliant conduits of reality and their testimony in a court of law is routinely regarded as suspect. It’s not much better for what we hear (or think we hear). Many years ago in Abu Dhabi, in my IB English class, I conducted a Chinese Whispers session as prep for a novel we were about to read (Camus’ The Stranger). By the time my very brief message got around from ear to ear, from student 1 through 19, it had changed dramatically. Aside from linguistic and locution issues, we often bring what we expect or want to perceive into the perception and communicate accordingly.
Misconstruing is not limited to the phenomena of everyday life, but is a problem for science as well. Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, for instance, states that formulating an absolute truth about a phenomenon is problematical because the object of our scrutiny is altered by the scrutiny itself.