When innocent questions prove to be fatal
“What would you do if the woman sitting next to you and your girlfriend in the cinema asks for help opening a bottle of water?” asked the “2018 Men’s Love Examination,” an online quiz for Chinese males on their suitability as a partner.
Some were confused by the question, innocently wondering why anyone would not agree to help. These people may be too simple, and sometimes naive—at least, according to certain web-savvy men (and women). The question was based on a supposed real-life incident which ignited a national debate in December 2017, after a Weibo user quarreled with her boyfriend due to his agreeing to aid a female stranger. Some felt the stranger was making a bizarre imposition; others thought that no gentleman would refuse such a request.
To help or not, that is the question. With so little consensus, these dilemmas are known as 送命题 (sòngmìngtí, “life-costing” or “fatal” questions), indicating that any answer would cause problems. It might be a twist on 送分题 (sòngfēntí, grade-gifting questions), a term widely used by teachers and students to describe easy exam questions that effectively “gift” points to the test-taker.
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Cruel Conundrums is a story from our issue, “China Chic.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.