number format and semantic hairsplitting in China

Tom Zurinskas truespel at HOTMAIL.COM
Fri May 8 15:27:27 UTC 2009

I remember being taught in grammar school not to say the "and".  It's a rule.  Why not follow the rule.  Perhaps there is good reason for the rule.  For instance if someone asks how many boys are in that class, and the answer spoken is "one hundred and fifteen boys".  It might be confusing such that one might think it was said that there are 100 in the class and 15 are boys.  It would be especially confusing if one expected to hear "one hundred fifteen" which is the standard and instead hears the "and" thrown in there.

Tom Zurinskas, USA - CT20, TN3, NJ33, FL5+

> Date: Fri, 8 May 2009 12:46:43 +0800
> From: strangeguitars at GMAIL.COM
> Subject: number format and semantic hairsplitting in China
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender: American Dialect Society
> Poster: Randy Alexander
> Subject: number format and semantic hairsplitting in China
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Fri, May 8, 2009 at 1:33 AM, Michael Sheehan wrote:
>> Is there a real difference between these two numbers?
>> One hundred fifteen
>> One hundred and fifteen
>> In other words, does the coordinating conjunction change the meaning in any
>> way, or is there a situation in which it is more desirable?
> I'm going to be more bold than Arnold in answering: no, there's no
> meaning difference. There is only a difference in format. Â The only
> factors that could contribute to a preference in use are space
> limitations, and (a very slight) degree of formality, or other
> format-related factors.
> And now a slightly related anecdote, for those who might be
> interested. Â I often get asked questions like this by English students
> and teachers here in China. Â 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. Â I tell the
> asker that either one is OK. Â They step back and look at me with utter
> disbelief, saying one *must* be correct and the other wrong.
> First of all there seems to be an inherent belief among second
> language learners that each expression must map onto exactly one idea.
> I myself was guilty of that in my early stage of Chinese study. I
> tried my best to believe that each different expression could not be
> equal to any other expression; that each expression had some special
> shade of meaning or connotation.
> This seems a harmless enough problem at first, but when you multiply
> it times 300 million or so students in one country alone, it gets
> elevated to policy. These students and teachers are asking me these
> kinds of questions because their own teachers have put them on tests.
> Once people see them on tests, they regard them as canon.
> It's supremely difficult to trace the origin of many of these
> prescriptive ideas. Maybe next time I am asked, I should present some
> of these questions to the list. It would be interesting to see what
> people come up with.
> --
> Randy Alexander
> Jilin City, China
> My Manchu studies blog:
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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