Friday, February 04, 2005

Diffuse Quantity Descriptors

Nurse Myra and I were having a discussion recently about the words that are used to denote an unfixed but still quantative indication of the numbers of certain things where you don't wish (or are unable) to be too specific. Those are words like a few, several, some, a variety of etc. I don't know whether there is an actual word for these kinds of pliable quantities, but there really should be. I'm calling them 'Diffuse Quantity Descriptors' until someone sets me straight.

Let me elaborate: we agreed that a few choices on the menu is more than two and possibly less than five. Several choices would be more than a few but possibly not as many as six or seven. A variety of choices might be as many as several, but possibly a a few more.

Curiously, when talking about time, these quantaties seem to shrink or expand according to actual purpose. "I'll be gone for a few minutes" would possibly be five or six, or maybe even ten minutes whilst "I'll be gone for a few hours" seems like it might reasonably encompass three or four hours. Several hours seems rather longer, but several minutes could be just a few.

I might ruminate on this for a few days, and you can be sure there will be several other posts on a variety of similar anomalies.

2 comments:

Blogger UniversalHead said...

Personally, I was brought up in an environment where few always meant, without fail, 3; several would have been 3 plus; and a variety would have been three or more choices of quite differing types.

As for time, I'll comment on that manana.

February 04, 2005 5:09 PM  
Blogger anaglyph said...

Well, it appears that there is a name for these things: 'determiners'. Not as exciting or as sexy as my name for them I feel.

February 06, 2005 6:27 PM  

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