. . . times lower than . . .

Laurence Urdang urdang at SBCGLOBAL.NET
Wed Sep 5 14:57:16 UTC 2007

Kelvin, Celsius, Fahrenheit have nothing to do with any aspect of this issue.
  I do, however, see a difference between, "twice as cold" when the temperatures, regardless of scale, are -4 and -2 and when the temperatures, regardless of scale, are +4 and +2: the former works arithmetically; the latter is arithmetical nonsense.
  I can see no problem talking about bigger/smaller, hotter/colder, etc., for such statements make no sense at all unless there is a referent scale of some sort in which numbers can be larger or smaller.  That statement works for things like temperature, but not all things.  E.g., "That building is twice [or half] as tall as this one" is okay, but "That building is twice as short as this one" is not.
  In sum, the focus is on the word "times" (and other words or phrases that are its equivalent, like "twice" and "thrice"), which refers to an increase, not a decrease.  That is why "twice as big" makes sense and "twice as small" makes no sense.
  Going in the negative direction, "half," "a third," a quarter," etc. work, but there are English contexts that are needed or implied, esp. the comparative frame, "as far as," which is disapppearing rapidly as the more common structure eliminates the verb: "As far as X [is concerned, goes, etc.]" has yielded to "As far as X," without the verb, which must be regarded as "idiomatic," for it certainly makes no sense.
  L. Urdang

son at ATT.NET> wrote:
  ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: "Joel S. Berson"
Subject: Re: . . . times lower than . . .

At 9/4/2007 04:56 PM, you wrote:

> I can remember being exasperated by some radio announcer's blithely saying
>"It'll be twice as cold tonight (meaning -4šF instead of -2šF) as last
>night.".....as if cold were a quantifiable substance. But that was years
>ago & many other exasperations have intervened & smothered it!

As I wrote earlier, cold is a quantifiable
substance -- if one is talking Kelvin.


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