number format and semantic hairsplitting in China

M Covarrubias mcovarru at PURDUE.EDU
Mon May 11 14:02:44 UTC 2009

On May 11, 2009, at 9:43 AM, Tom Zurinskas wrote:

> If you should ask "Do you have any favorite numbers?" And I say
> "yes, 100 and 99."  Duplicitous?  Could it mean 199 or two numbers,
> 100 and 99.  According to rule, it means two.
> If I say he paid 100 and 20 dollars in two separate payments, what
> would be the total?  Was it two 120 payments or one 100 and one 20?
> According to rule, it would be one of 100 and another of 20.  But if
> one says "one hundred twenty" it's clear.  A simple rule to drop the
> "and" clarifies all.  Clarity is good.
> Are there no people here in this forum that were taught in grammar/
> elementary/primary/k-8 school how to pronounce numbers?  Did they
> not cover that and just let it float?

this is vital. because every time someone asks me what my favorite
number is, we get all confused and frustrated since my favorite number
happens to be 100.3 -- so i say 'one hundred and three tenths' and
they say 'you have two favorite numbers?' and i say 'no. one.' and
they say 'is one your favorite number?' and i say 'yes. one hundred
and three tenths'. and they say 'both of them?'...

then when i tell them that i saw a man with binoculars they ask me how
far away he was and i say he was right next to me and they ask why i
needed binoculars and i realize that if english keeps up with this
recent plague of ambiguous structures (that are the result of lazy
speech of course) it's going to die.


The American Dialect Society -

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