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The commonly offered definitions of "second guess" make no sense. Either the "second" is redundant, the guess is just a guess, or the posited process is criticising, not guessing. The process that does makes sense is one where somebody ('A') anticipates an outcome under conditions of uncertainty (i.e. guesses) and the outcome depends in part on the guesses some other person ('B') makes about the conditions under which they are acting. Thus, A guesses what will happen and that guess must try to anticipate the guess that B will make.


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  1. (idiomatic) To attempt to predict or anticipate.
    • 1957: "As a practical matter, a fertilizer company could not afford to second-guess the Federal Trade Commission or a jury in a triple damage case on so obscure a point." (U.S. Senate)
    • 1995: "MacGregor avoided this trap by refusing to give managers reporting to him the opportunity to second-guess the solution he would be most likely to choose."

The example sentences are obviously for the other sense, which could use some reworking.

I was conflicted about whether to take this to rfv or rfc, because the etymologies are hideous, and there are problems throughout (mostly added by a French IP who seems to have used several similar IP addresses), but the page can't be properly fixed without addressing the issue of whether this is a valid sense. Chuck Entz (talk) 03:49, 17 April 2013 (UTC)

Hang on, you do sometimes second-guess what someone is thinking without knowing what they're thinking; that rules out the other definition. Mglovesfun (talk) 12:27, 17 April 2013 (UTC)
That's why a few dictionaries have "to criticize" as one of the two possible definitions, the other being something like "to make a prediction with the benefit of information not available to (another predictor or prediction)".
Either a person predicting or a particular prediction could be second-guessed in either sense.
It could also be used intransitively in either sense. DCDuring TALK 20:20, 17 April 2013 (UTC)
  • Clocked out. I can't defend the challenged sense. I think we can rework the entry with a better definition to address MG's valid point. Another opinion? DCDuring TALK 02:11, 30 September 2013 (UTC)