"and" in numerical expressions (UNCLASSIFIED)

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Thu May 14 14:09:20 UTC 2009

On May 14, 2009, at 2:09 AM, Russ McClay wrote:

[a wonderful assortment of opinions on "and" vs. zero in things like
"two hundred (and) three"]

for the longest time, i've been puzzled as to why discussions of this
question so quickly turn to cases where "and" is obligatory ("two and
a half", "two dollars and six cents"), which have always seemed to me
like irrelevant digressions.   but in some of these opinions i see a
familiar locution, when people say that *the only places* "and" should
be used are [some partial list of obligatory-"and" contexts].

there is a principle of "grammatical reasoning" here that almost no
one (even usage advisers, much less non-specialists) makes explicit;
probably they're not aware that they're using it.  the version here is:

   (1) The only places variant X is acceptable are where it's

(with the understood continuation: otherwise, the alternative, Y, is

This is equivalent to the formulation:

   (2) Don't use variant X unless the alternative, Y, is unacceptable
-- in which case, use X.

The version in (2) is given at the end of my posting (on my blog) on
"for" vs. "because"
where it follows a more elaborate unpacking of the reasoning (in three
steps), as applied to "for"/"because", linking "but"/"however", and
restrictive "which"/"that".  the principle has the function of
enforcing rigid complementary distribution (rather than partial free
variation), via a "division of labor" between the variants -- all this
in service of One Right Way.

my blog posting has links to earlier postings on various case
studies.  the historical precedent is "Fowler's famous suggestion that
the labor of signaling relative clauses might be divided between
"that" and "which"" (as i put it in my blog posting).

Fowler's proposal was merely a tentative suggestion, but it since been
elevated to a rigid rule.  i was originally going to call the general
principle of grammatical reasoning Fowler's Syllogism, but that seemed
unfair to Fowler, so for the moment i'm settling for the less punchy
name Rigid Complementarity Principle (RCP).

in any case, "and"/zero is yet another case of the RCP in action (I
also have a piece in preparation on apostrophe/zero alternations,
where some people have appealed, implicitly, to the RCP).

i am not, of course, recommending the RCP, which i think is a silly


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