nomconjobjs: between you and me/I (UNCLASSIFIED)

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Mon Feb 22 22:12:48 UTC 2010

On Feb 22, 2010, at 11:47 AM, Bill Mullins wrote:

> [quoting VS] " By your interpretation, A can "outnumber" B "by a
> factor of" 1. I
> simply fail to see this as a possibility."
> And that is the root of the problem.  "Outnumber" refers to an
> additive
> excess,

in your mind perhaps.  but all "A outnumbers B" says is the number of
As exceeds the number of Bs; it doesn't say how how the excess is
calculated.  and indeed the OED (draft revision of Dec. 2007) has two
examples for "outnumber" with a standard of comparison stipulated: D.
Defoe, 1720, with "their Infantry, which out-numbered ours by 1500
(additive)"; H. Brooke, 1768, with "They out numbered us three to
one" (multiplicative).  i'd venture to say that a huge number of
current speakers would accept either standard of comparison.

> and "factor" refers to a multiplicative operation.  The two
> terms don't work well together, and ambiguities can result.

there are few criticisms of a usage more lame than "ambiguities can
result".  the language around us  is drenched with, saturated with,
potential ambiguities, only a small percentage of which are actually
problematic in context.  (if you intend to eliminate all potential
ambiguity in natural languages, you might as well commit yourself to a
lonely, languageless life.  or you could learn the conlang Lojban.)


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