number format and semantic hairsplitting in China

M Covarrubias mcovarru at PURDUE.EDU
Sat May 9 01:05:03 UTC 2009

On May 8, 2009, at 11:27 AM, Tom Zurinskas wrote:

> 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.

"it's a rule" doesn't go very far as an argument until we establish
whose rule it is, what the rule accomplishes, and then if it's a rule
worth caring about.

in the 3rd grade, mrs wolford taught us to use "and" only when there
was a decimal. 'one hundred fifteen and seventeen hundredths' but i
never understood why that should be the only use.  she probably made
some argument about a garden-path like confusion. even tho there
really wouldn't be any confusion there.

'one hundred and fifteen and seventeen hundredths.' works just as well.

the ambiguity you suggest doesn't strike me as a very likely issue.
especially if the question is "how many boy are in the class" which
invites a number that represents just the boys in the class. if the
question was 'how many are in the class total, and how many of them
are boys?' then 'one hundred and fifteen' would probably refer to the
100 total in the class and the 15 boys. but it still wouldn't be
ambiguous in that case because as an answer to the two-part question
it couldn't mean "115 boys".


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