number format and semantic hairsplitting in China

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Fri May 8 12:20:29 UTC 2009

On May 7, 2009, at 9:46 PM, Randy Alexander wrote:

> ...
> And now a slightly related anecdote, for those who might be
> interested. I often get asked questions like this by English students
> and teachers here in China. A pair of semantically identical or
> nearly identical phrases or sentences are presented to me and I'm
> asked to choose the right one for a certain situation.  I tell the
> asker that either one is OK. They step back and look at me with utter
> disbelief, saying one *must* be correct and the other wrong.

yes, this attitude is what i've called One Right Way.  i've written
about it a number of times, in various contexts.  it's come up again
and again here on ADS-L, for instance in a pointless discussion of
whether it's REALLY "close enough for government work" or "good enough
for government work".

usage critics tend to be great fans of One Right Way.

a related attitude is One Right Meaning.


The American Dialect Society -

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