General Question

janbb's avatar

What would the term "deceptively easy" mean to you?

Asked by janbb (59199points) December 27th, 2019

Would you think it means it looks difficult but is actually easy or that it looks easy but is actually hard to make?

I’ll give the example after hearing some opinions.

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27 Answers

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

It means that it is something one would think is difficult but is actually easy.

rebbel's avatar

So easy, it (seems it) was done so on purpose.
Like a test, that was designed to be made successfully by most students, to get a high success rate.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

The task is actually easy but deceptively appears difficult.

longgone's avatar

To me, without context, it means that something is not as easy as it first seems to be. Such as a question on a test that seems completely straightforward, but is intentionally misleading and actually not easy at all.

I have seen both this meaning and its opposite. I believe there is no clear answer as to the correct usage.

ucme's avatar

It can mean both.
I’ve heard sports commentators use it to describe the ease of which a pro athlete makes a fantastic bit of skill come off.
Alternatively, as has already been said, the more common use is to say the thing which may appear difficult, is in fact simple.

Pinguidchance's avatar

The answer to this question is deceptively easy.

Words mean what we agree they mean.

My learned colleague is correct in noting that the expression is a contronym.

In the absence of context to the contrary I’d assume that it was easy.

Ergo, and ipse dixit, the answer to this question is easy. Deceptively easy.

On the other hand sports commentators and other grammarians are at the forefront of the descriptivism versus prescriptivism debate in language development.

Demosthenes's avatar

Arguments can be made for both. The two meanings of “deceptively” here are “in appearance but not in reality” or “in reality but not in appearance”. Both are deceptive, therefore both are valid interpretations (so goes the argument). I will say that I more often hear the latter (“in reality but not in appearance”) used, i.e. the thing in question is easy, but does not appear so. I find this meaning more immediately obvious.

My advice: don’t use this phrase. Any phrase that can have two diametrically opposed meanings is functionally useless from a semantic perspective.

Response moderated (Spam)
LostInParadise's avatar

I see only one interpretation. Take out the word deceptively and you are just being told that it is easy. In what way is it easy? Being deceptively easy tells you that it appears to be otherwise.

JLeslie's avatar

It can go either way, but think of it as seeming difficult, but is actually very easy. I would never use the term, because it is so obviously (easily) misinterpreted.

It’s like bimonthly can mean twice a month or every other month, just don’t use it.

janbb's avatar

I know what the intent in this case is. It was in a recipe that they were indicating looks hard but is, in actuality, easy. However, looking at it, it seemed to me that if deceptively is an adjective modifying easy, it could in actuality mean, it looks easy but is really hard. I just found it an interesting question to ponder; it’s not something I particularly plan to use in writing.

Thanks all for answering.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I’m too late but I’ll answer anyway.
To me it means the task looks difficult but actually is easy. The designers made it simple and mistake proof. In Japanese the term is called “Poka-yoke.”
(Unfortunately it is often misspelled or mispronounced by foreigners.) ;-)

johnpowell's avatar

I would consider homemade flour tortillas deceptively easy. I thought they would be harder to make but are actually a breeze and once you make your own you never go back.

raum's avatar

Is deceptively easy.
Is easy in a deceptive way.

Looks deceptively easy.
Looks easy in a deceptive way.

filmfann's avatar

I agree that it would indicate something looks difficult, but isn’t.
My examples would include some board games, and some of the women I’ve dated.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Easier than it looks.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

I’ve never seen it mean anything other than giving a false impression of ease

Like when a gymnast makes moves look natural and effortless, after years and years of training and hard work.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

Is deceptively easy.
Is easy in a deceptive way.

Looks deceptively easy.
Looks easy in a deceptive way.

Nicely done! Very clear.

janbb's avatar

@Call_Me_Jay But isn’t what @raum is saying the opposite of what you say you take it to mean? Or am I missing something?

Response moderated
Call_Me_Jay's avatar

isn’t what @raum is saying the opposite of what you say you take it to mean?

@raum put it both ways. I resist the one interpretation, but it follows when stated as @raum did.

janbb's avatar

@Call_Me_Jay Ah. I see that distinction now and that ambiguity is why I can see it taken each way.

Sagacious's avatar

Easier than it looks

Pinguidchance's avatar

@Call_Me_Jay I’ve never seen it mean anything other than giving a false impression of ease

On the contrary, you’ve seen several instances where people understand it to mean the opposite of what you contend.

Caravanfan's avatar

Anything from IKEA

SergeantQueen's avatar

Cooking Spaghetti

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