February 29, 2004

The Might of Airports

I just dropped Bernard Nickel off at the airport after the conference. It was a great time--lots of interesting talks, and a snowball fight to top off the after-party (I got creamed). Hopefully all this snow will not prevent the conference guests from getting out of Salt Lake intact.

On that topic, Bernard brought up an unusual epistemic modal that he says he hears all the time in airports: "At this time we would like to preboard our First Class Passengers, Frequent whatevers, and any children who might be travelling alone." The question is: Doesn't everyone concerned know whether the children are travelling alone?

My quick attempt at a solution was: If they said "Children travelling alone," they fear they would be making an existential presupposition. Since there often aren't any children travelling alone on a flight, they feel obliged to qualify it somehow. My other attempt at a solution is: The airlines are screwing up.

Any thoughts?

Posted by Matt Weiner at February 29, 2004 10:56 AM