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Before 9:10 in the following talk, the speaker says "Did I miss a meeting?". I couldn't grasp the meaning of that sentence. Did he mean to say that he does have a body?

https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity/transcript?language=en

I think math is very important, but so is dance. Children dance all the time if they're allowed to, we all do. We all have bodies, don't we? Did I miss a meeting?

2 Answers 2

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Did I miss something? is a rhetorical question. I could paraphrase it like this:

Did I miss a key point somewhere?
Did I miss a memo [specifying something to the contrary]?
Did I miss a meeting [where everyone decided that dance is not important]?

I haven't watched the TED talk yet, but I'm guessing that the speaker is talking about how the fine arts are getting deemphasized in education while a heavier emphasis is being put on fields like science and mathematics. The speaker's point would be that we shouldn't deemphasize the former in our quest to bolster the latter.

The speaker is essentially stating that dance is an important part of life.

The presumed answer to the speaker's question would be:

No! Of course not.

(That is: Of course there was no meeting where everyone decided that dance is not important – because everyone knows that dancing is important. After all, we all dance when we're allowed to. It's a natural expression of emotion.)

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  • 1
    Rhetorical questions are probably right up there with idioms as far as difficulty for new English speakers, I'll bet.
    – Kenneth K.
    Jan 31, 2016 at 19:09
  • @r12 - I suppose it could be, but I don't think so. It's rather indisputable that everyone has a body. The speaker is lamenting how the educational establishment has dismissed dancing as unimportant. Just before the quoted excerpt, he says, "There isn't an education system on the planet that teaches dance everyday to children the way we teach them mathematics. Why? Why not?" I think that's more likely the topic of this hypothetical "meeting."
    – J.R.
    Feb 1, 2016 at 0:35
  • @r12 - We'll just have to agree to disagree on this one. Grammatically, it can refer to either one. To me, it makes more sense (and the joke works even better) if the meeting refers to dancing. I don't see it as "making dancing the butt of the joke;" rather, he's bringing that paragraph to its climax.
    – J.R.
    Feb 1, 2016 at 9:17
  • My two cents: while in writing it could be interpreted to be referring to dancing, I feel that if you listen to the talk, then the "Did I miss a meeting?" question is a joke built on the one about the bodies. Hence, the meeting should be about the bodies, not dancing. Also, the paragraph actually seems to continue, just there is a pause due to laughter.
    – mortenpi
    Dec 4, 2016 at 22:12
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This usage falls under the definition 2.1 of the word "miss" in the OED:

Fail to attend, participate in, or watch (something one is expected to do or habitually does).

In the example context the literal interpretation would be that the speaker is (rhetorically) asking whether someone actually organised a meeting where we collectively decided the we no longer have bodies, hence making teaching dancing unnecessary.

It is, of course, intended as a joke due to the absurdity of such a meeting actually occurring. In the greater context the question is used as a rhetorical device to convey a point, which J.R.'s answer analyses more thoroughly.

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