rectangle vs. square

Robin Hamilton robin.hamilton3 at VIRGINMEDIA.COM
Sun Jun 27 00:02:42 UTC 2010

From: "Garson O'Toole" <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
Sent: Sunday, June 27, 2010 12:32 AM
Subject:      Re: rectangle vs. square

> Here is another example. Formally every circle is also an ellipse. The
> set of all circles is a subset of the set of all ellipses. But the
> informal use of these terms is different, e.g.:
> What is the difference between a circle and a ellipse?
> Basically a circle has a constant radius throughout and an ellipse does
> not.
> This informal use suggests that a circle is not an ellipse.
> Garson

Wilson was ahead of his time -- Set Theory was barely beginning to figure
when I graduated from highschool.

(Mostly) Nested sets:

Polygon > Quadrilateral > Rectangle > square + oblong.

Thus, an oblong is any rectangle (quadrilateral figure with four right
angles) which is *not a square (or vice versa).

The unlovely side of an oblong, in this context, is that it's the only name
in this particular set of terms which is defined by a negative.

Thus quite rightly, in evolving general usage, it's being elbowed out of


> On Sat, Jun 26, 2010 at 7:21 PM, Wilson Gray <hwgray at> wrote:
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail
>> header -----------------------
>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> Poster:       Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
>> Subject:      Re: rectangle vs. square
>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> I'm fully satisfied that "rectangle" has long since ceased to include
>> "square" and "oblong" as subsets in today's corrupt version of our
>> majestic tongue.
>> I merely felt like bitching about it.

The American Dialect Society -

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