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To consider an observation without the surroundings that clarify its meaning. For example, if I were to say

Nate says "no!"

you would have little idea what to do with that. What is he saying "no" to? You can't tell, because the statement is out of context. More insidiously, someone might make you feel threatened by telling you that enkidu said

I will crush you.

This could be seriously misleading if the full sentence were

I will crush you with hugs and smother you with kisses!

A popular example of a quote being taken out of context is the idea, widespread during the 2000 American presidential election, that Al Gore claimed to have invented the internet. Even though it became clear that in the context of the overall interview he had not made that claim, a single phrase extracted from it was used to publically mock him for months.

An image might also be taken out of context (e.g., showing one person beating another, without indicating that moments earlier the first person had been pointing a knife at her), as may any other signifier. When an idea is taken out of context, it may be said to be decontextualized.

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