number format and semantic hairsplitting in China

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sun May 10 06:24:59 UTC 2009

FWIW, I was never taught any rule whatsoever regarding the use of
_and_ in numerals in grade school - 1942-1950 - or in any other school
or at whatever level.

That anyone should have bothered to propose a rule regarding such a
triviality is laughable.

OTOH, we were taught to use "_least_ common denominator," even though
only our teachers were white, and not the dumbed-down "_lowest_ common

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Mark Twain

On Fri, May 8, 2009 at 9:05 PM, M Covarrubias <mcovarru at> wrote:
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> Sender: Â  Â  Â  American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster: Â  Â  Â  M Covarrubias <mcovarru at PURDUE.EDU>
> Subject: Â  Â  Â 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. Â Why not follow the rule. Â Perhaps there is good reason
>> for the rule. Â For instance if someone asks how many boys are in
>> that class, and the answer spoken is "one hundred and fifteen
>> boys". Â It might be confusing such that one might think it was said
>> that there are 100 in the class and 15 are boys. Â 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. Â 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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