number format and semantic hairsplitting in China

Tom Zurinskas truespel at HOTMAIL.COM
Sat May 9 01:32:46 UTC 2009

Are we to question "who" made up all the rules of linguistics.  Young folks don't question that.  They're told it's a rule and so it is.  But they and we can consider if it's a good one.  I think it is.  It's shorter if the "and" is left out and it avoids any confusion.  For instance if someone asks "How many kids are in that class and how many are boys.  If the answer is 100 and 15 what does that mean?  It could mean the class has 100 kids and 15 are boys, or also mean the class size is 115 if the class were all boys.

I can see no reason not to teach this rule.  Leaving out the "and" makes number pronunciation clear, concise, and standardized.

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

> Date: Fri, 8 May 2009 21:05:03 -0400
> From: mcovarru at PURDUE.EDU
> Subject: Re: number format and semantic hairsplitting in China
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender: American Dialect Society
> Poster: M Covarrubias
> Subject: Re: number format and semantic hairsplitting in China
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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".
> michael
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