Argumentation on Twitter

November 19th, 2011
by jodi

Here’s an argument made on Twitter:

Difference between cakes and biscuits? When stale, cakes go hard, biscuits go soft. Hence Jaffa Cakes are cakes. (Was official EU ruling).

I just love this example:

  1. First, you can find it with “hence” (see cue phrases from an appendix to Marcu‘s thesis).
  2. Second, the notion of this EU (tax) ruling amuses me.
  3. Third, it shows that 140 characters is enough for a complex argumentative structure. This has three main claims: When stale, cakes go hard, biscuits go soft; Jaffa Cakes are cakes; and [Jaffa Cakes are cakes due to] official EU ruling.
  4. Enthymemes anyone?

It’s hard, though, to draw the line between an argument and an explanation in this context.
Jaffa Cakes, for you North American readers, are a common dessert-y snack in Ireland and the UK. Vaguely like Kandy Kakes found in the Philadelphia area/East Coast, but usually have an orange filling.

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Posted in argumentative discussions, PhD diary, random thoughts, social web | Comments (4)

  • Amanda says:

    I wish I’d had this example when I used to teach argument in my freshman writing classes! The Jaffa cake wouldn’t have been familiar to the students, but I could have rectified that by bringing some in. :) Mmmmm, Jaffa cakes.

    (Incidentally, there’s a brand of Jaffa cakes available in US markets called “Pim’s,” which were favorites of mine long before I learned that “Jaffa cakes” is the generic term for that kind of cake/orange jam/chocolate snack.)

  • jodi says:

    Cool! What do you like about this example,, by the way? I didn’t know about Pim’s, just added a comment about that on the Wikipedia Talk page.

  • Amanda says:

    I like its sensory vividness and specificity. I also like its offbeatness: so many examples of arguments that you see in texts geared toward college writing are kind of…well, dry. Or at least overfamiliar. (Stale, even!) There’s something delightfully silly and unexpected — and hence memorable — about making a serious argument about what constitutes cake. Especially when it’s the EU making the argument!

    And I also like the fact that one can demonstrate it with cookies. Or, rather, cakes. :)

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