Friday, September 14, 2007

Can I..Sure...But SHOULD I?

I can't tell you how many times I get asked by people...can you do this analysis? This question always makes me laugh. When I was in 2nd grade I was browbeat by a very large, intimidating teacher on the difference between can, may, and should.

ME: "Mrs. Brown, can I go to the bathroom"
Mrs. Brown: "I don't know, can you?"
ME: "Mrs. Brown, MAY I got to the bathroom?
Mrs. Brown: "Yes you may!"

This happens all over the country in classrooms, learning the difference between can, may and should. Yet, it amazes me how many don't remember these lessons. I would think they would have considering if you didn't, there was no way you were going to the bathroom, except maybe right there in the room. I say this because I still always get the "Can you do the analysis?" Sure, of course I can...but SHOULD I? Many time, I find myself arguing this very point. They mistaken my answer of "Should not do it" to mean, "Can't do it." Then wonder why they hired a stats guy that can't do math....well, let's get this straight...yes, I CAN do it. I can average 2 numbers together...but SHOULD I average two numbers together? That's a whole different question. Several years ago, I would get into this argument with someone over me, and over and over again it was the same argument, same result. He would argue that I could do the calculation, I would argue that I should not do it (to the point I would give references), and eventually would have to do it anyway. You see, it was never a question of can't....but should.

I see this happen ever more so with the advent of all these new, slick stats packages "made easy." Check my next post for more details on this peice. Needless to say, with these packages...can just about anyone do complicated stats? Yes....Should they? Now that's a whole different discussion!

1 comment:

Gilligan said...

This reminded me of another recent post on semantics, albeit more one that was focussed on outbound marketing and advertising. That post was more about "will" vs. "may." The post: