[DWJ] Tropes

Minnow minnow at belfry.org.uk
Wed Dec 6 19:05:11 EST 2006


Colin Fine wrote:

>It's a common plaint of those who are careful about their choice of
>words: "this word's meaning has changed, so if I use it in the way I am
>familiar with I risk being misunderstood, but I can't bring myself to
>use it in the new way, so I will just avoid using it". There was a
>period when I avoided the word 'billion' for that reason; but now that
>the American sense (thousand million) has become so common that
>insisting on the former UK sense (million million) would be perverse, I
>have reconciled myself to using it.

I haven't ever had to use "a billion" in any way accurately, not being an
astronomer, a financier, or one dealing in the number of molecules that can
dance on the head of a theory, so it just means "a lot" as far as I am
concerned, and occurs in books in which someone is trying to impress on me
that it's a *long* way to the galaxy s/he has set his work in or that there
are far too many people living on the future-Earth for it to support them.
It occupies the same area in my mind as a plethora: too many to grasp or
count.  Squillion and gadzillion make as much actual sense to me, and since
they don't specify what exact number they mean they're safer for everyday
use.

(Yes, I know, plethora originally meant a condition of the blood, but I
don't think anyone has used it that way for yonks -- another useful word
meaning "more than a little", related to time rather than numbers.)

Minnow





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