1070: "Words for Small Sets"

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dmm
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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby dmm » Tue Jun 19, 2012 8:01 pm UTC

DSDM wrote:I use "a couple" to refer to two. "A few" is three or an indeterminate number more.

As for the number of spaces after a period, typographers insist that one space is correct. The two-space thing only came about because manual typewriters used a monospace typesetting, and putting two spaces after a period made it easier to see the end of one sentence and the beginning of a new sentence. Even after electric typewriters and later word processors and computers allowed for more realistic kerning, people continued using two spaces, because that's the way they learned, and passed this on to their children.

I hate the auto-kerning of Word, so I use two spaces. One space doesn't leave enough space between sentences. Also, I used to work for a typesetter as a copy editor. We used TWO spaces after a sentence. Or maybe it was an extra-long space. But it wasn't just one normal space.
Publishers can complain all they want; you should do what pleases you. If you submit copy to a journal, magazine, book editor, etc. then they will just do a global replace on all your "incorrectly" spaced sentences. Hopefully they will have better publishing software than Word.
(BTW, I'm not hating on Word. It just doesn't space well between sentences, IMHO.)
Last edited by dmm on Tue Jun 19, 2012 9:43 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby ygp » Tue Jun 19, 2012 9:18 pm UTC

The Oxford Dictionary of English seems to state that strictly, couple is exactly two, but is often used informally to mean an 'indefinite small number'. What that small number is, of course is up for debate. Meanwhile, the relevant OED entry only defines it as meaning two (as far as I can tell), but makes a note that 'All shades of gradation connect the strict sense … with the loosest' (referring to quotations for meaning 7a here), seeming to suggest a fairly large range is acceptable.

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whateveries
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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby whateveries » Tue Jun 19, 2012 11:05 pm UTC

ZuilSerip wrote:Even if I concede that a couple may mean more than 2, we must agree that 'pair' remains reserved for exactly two...

Otherwise instructing someone to 'grow a pair' could get a bit too disturbing.


except for Pants. (Trousers, Jeans, M.C.Hammer apparel, etc)

to me a 'couple' or a 'few' indicates 2 or 3 with some kind of uncertainty attatched to an unknowable future outcome.
This is applicable for relationships > Tom and Judy are a couple >>couples often have children, so 2 plus the uncertainty of future children.
This is applicable for Items > Tom needs a few screws to fix the robot >> He also needs a few brews whilst he is at it.
This is applicable for time. > Tom and Judy want a few minutes to couple >> Judy would be happier if Tom applied took a bit longer.

precise values can be attained after the fact.

Relationships> Tom & Judy were married for 30 Years and had 7 children >> Tom and Judy got busy.
Items> to fix the robot he ended up only using two screws >> The others were left in a pair of pants that went through the washer, now tom needs to fix the washer, Tom needs a few more brews for a job this big.
Time> Tom lasted 2 minutes longer than last time >> this still does not make Judy happy >>>Tom is too sleepy to care right now, but will feel bad after a couple of minutes snoozing.
it's fine.

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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby Skipp » Tue Jun 19, 2012 11:09 pm UTC

Few 1-4
Several 5-9
Pack 10-19
Lots 20-49
Horde 50-99
Throng 100-249
Swarm 250-499
Zounds 500-999
Legion 1000+

Source: Heroes of Might and Magic 3

I trust we are done here

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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby W3ird_N3rd » Wed Jun 20, 2012 12:35 am UTC

rhomboidal wrote:I just use "a number" to cover any and all circumstances, even irrational and imaginary ones.

I just always use an actual number, imaginary if needed. I rate your post thive stars!

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Kin
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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby Kin » Wed Jun 20, 2012 1:30 am UTC

These kind of things are only a question if you've never played Heroes of Might and Magic.

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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby scotty2haughty » Wed Jun 20, 2012 3:30 am UTC

On a tangent, a phrase I often get in trouble for:

"The other day..."

Can mean yesterday, last week, or last year, depending on context.
/s/

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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Jun 20, 2012 3:34 am UTC

That at least doesn't purport to be a specific day, unlike "last", "this", and "next" when it comes to saying what day something is on. People always say things like "next Friday" to mean a specific day, but much less commonly seem aware that not everyone will necessarily interpret that to mean the same Friday the speaker is talking about.
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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby Wooloomooloo » Wed Jun 20, 2012 7:36 am UTC

astrosteve wrote:As far as my mother is concerned, she's always right about everything even when she's wrong.

Wait, that sounds _really_ familiar. Could it be...?
...naaaaah. :wink:

astrosteve wrote:Yay for people with non-malleable viewpoints?

I think there's nothing wrong with people with non-malleable viewpoints (at least on subjects not easily verifiable / supported by compelling evidence - I admit the flat earth thing is getting kinda old); I'm likely one myself (for various amounts of likely - depending on context). The actual problem is with such people that also fail to realize their precious "absolute truth" means exactly jack squat / zilch / nada / zero to anybody other than themselves, excluding whoever else might accidentally hold that same _opinion_ about that particular subject.

In fact I'm pretty sure not only the internet but the whole world would be a much better place if only these people realized that everything coming out of their mouths / keyboards is always preceded by an invisible "I think...", whether they like it or not. Everything we know that we know is in fact never more than a personal opinion - supported by better or worse evidence and reasons to believe, but a mere opinion nevertheless. I have a hunch that prolonged exposure to the internet might get us to realize that eventually (perhaps even in a mere couple of decades), yet I don't really expect it to happen in my lifetime. Until then, I guess yay for people convinced that they hold the One True Immutable Truth, all eleventy billion of them.

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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby Kemp » Wed Jun 20, 2012 9:43 am UTC

Wooloomooloo wrote:I think there's nothing wrong with people with non-malleable viewpoints (at least on subjects not easily verifiable / supported by compelling evidence - I admit the flat earth thing is getting kinda old); I'm likely one myself (for various amounts of likely - depending on context). The actual problem is with such people that also fail to realize their precious "absolute truth" means exactly jack squat / zilch / nada / zero to anybody other than themselves, excluding whoever else might accidentally hold that same _opinion_ about that particular subject.

In fact I'm pretty sure not only the internet but the whole world would be a much better place if only these people realized that everything coming out of their mouths / keyboards is always preceded by an invisible "I think...", whether they like it or not. Everything we know that we know is in fact never more than a personal opinion - supported by better or worse evidence and reasons to believe, but a mere opinion nevertheless. I have a hunch that prolonged exposure to the internet might get us to realize that eventually (perhaps even in a mere couple of decades), yet I don't really expect it to happen in my lifetime. Until then, I guess yay for people convinced that they hold the One True Immutable Truth, all eleventy billion of them.


It doesn't help when, for example, the news channels go on the street to get people's opinions on things that are inherently not matters of opinion. It's that sort of thing, combined with the natural tendency for people to think they are correct (after all, if it wasn't correct then why would they have that opinion?), that makes people think their opinions actually mean something to the world. That then leads to massive online arguments for no purpose, such as... I don't know... where has that happened recently? :wink:

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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby orthogon » Wed Jun 20, 2012 10:08 am UTC

jqavins wrote:
orthogon wrote:
jqavins wrote:
  • "Just a few" is the same as the enumerative meaning of "few" alone.

However, "Just a few!" means "Quite a few"

Only when used sarcasticly. If "just a few" didn't mean the small end of the "a few" range then "Just a few!" wouldn't be used.


Agreed.

jqavins wrote:
"A couple of <something>" and "a couple <something> are different.

I always thought that was an EN-US vs EN-GB thing. I've never heard or seen in writing "a couple <x>" in the UK. The "of" may be reduced to an almost inaudible schwa, but I'm sure the speaker would deny that it was missing altogether, just as a Frenchman would deny that "ne" is ever omitted in speech.

OK, I didn't know that "a couple <x>" isn't used in the UK. Both are used here though, as well as "a couple ə <x>." And the difference I noted seems to be apparent in this thread; others have not commented on the difference (unless I glazed over it) but those insisting "couple" means exactly two seem to use the "of" for exclusively, while those on the other side frequently (not exclusively) leave "of" out. "A couple of gunshots" vs. "a couple beers," for example.


There's an interesting discussion of it here, which seems to confirm a British/US difference.

BTW +1 internet for getting the schwa character!
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby biteme » Thu Jun 21, 2012 4:48 am UTC

radtea wrote:
biteme wrote:A couple is exactly two. A few is 3-7. Several is more than seven but less than a dozen. A handful is a measure of volume, not quantity.


I'm curious what you think the meaning of "is" is.

Everything you say makes sense if "is" means, "I take to mean", but makes no sense at all otherwise. "A couple I take to mean exactly two" is perfectly reasonable,, although will get you into the confusion with people who don't use that narrow definition.

But it sounds like you aren't making an epistemological or linguistic claim but an ontological one, as if there was something in reality that is "really" a "couple", etc, and you are merely mentioning this ontological state. That makes no sense at all: it isn't necessary for thought or communication (obviously) and it leads to long senseless arguments about what "really is" as opposed to long sensible arguments about how what is is best understood and classified for human purposes.


You must be one of those folks who follows statements which are clearly opinions with, "well, that's just your opinion, man." In the future I'll be sure to preface my statements with the disclaimer that my thoughts are those of their thinker and do not represent the laws of humanity or the greater universe.

Also, I kind of like long senseless arguments.

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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby Platypodes » Thu Jun 21, 2012 7:15 am UTC

I always thought that "a few" and "several" were, by definition, greater than two. Using either of them to refer to two seems bizarre to me. Would you go to the movies with one friend and then say, "a few of us went to the movies last night"? That's just weird.

"A few" sometimes means "a small percentage of the total." Someone with "a few grey hairs" might have 100 of them (out of the 100,000 hairs on his head).
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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby Uzh » Thu Jun 21, 2012 11:05 am UTC

...about the "couple"...

We do have a similar problem in German, where we use the Word "ein Paar" for the married (or otherwise connected) couple. "Ein Paar" is therefore also a numeral for exactly two things, usually of the same kind and of such a kind, which usually comes in two. "Ein Paar Füße" - a pair of feet. "Ein Paar Hosen", a pair of trousers, since the trouser used to be only one leg. You can find the "Hose" in english for a tube of fabric.

On the other hand we do have the excessive capitalisation of words which comes handy here: If there is "ein paar" with a small p it's "some". Simply a easily countable amount. And not neccessarily of the same kind or coming together. "Ein paar Worte" - some words (which, announced at a begin of a speech, might not be easily countable...)

Funnily enough "ein Paar Hosen" means one (since there are two legs), "ein paar Hosen" means some trousers. So when someone tells me, that he bought "ein paar Hosen" I have to ask, whether the "paar" is capitalized.

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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby YttriumOx » Thu Jun 21, 2012 12:50 pm UTC

Uzh wrote:Funnily enough "ein Paar Hosen" means one (since there are two legs), "ein paar Hosen" means some trousers. So when someone tells me, that he bought "ein paar Hosen" I have to ask, whether the "paar" is capitalized.

Out of interest, whereabouts are you from?
Here in Niedersachsen, I've never heard anyone say "ein Paar Hosen" for one pair of trousers - always just "eine Hose".

Not being a native German speaker myself, I asked my wife (born and raised in Hannover) and she agrees that to her "ein Paar Hosen" would be (exactly) two pairs of trousers (most likely as an identical pair to be worn by two people who need to dress the same; as opposed to a random two (or more) pairs of trousers, which she'd write as "ein paar Hosen").
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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby jqavins » Thu Jun 21, 2012 1:29 pm UTC

orthogon wrote:BTW +1 internet for getting the schwa character!

Thanks, but it's more +1 Windows; all I did was paste it in from the character map utility.
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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby jqavins » Thu Jun 21, 2012 1:36 pm UTC

Platypodes wrote:I always thought that "a few" and "several" were, by definition, greater than two. Using either of them to refer to two seems bizarre to me. Would you go to the movies with one friend and then say, "a few of us went to the movies last night"? That's just weird.

I tend to agree. Using these terms for two or fewer seems just weird. And using them for only one seems just wrong. There's not much in this discussion I'd call out and out wrong ("couple" > 2 is grey) but using any size-of-a-group term for one of a thing? That's where I draw the line.
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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby webzter_again » Thu Jun 21, 2012 2:39 pm UTC

biteme wrote:Also, I kind of like long senseless arguments.


Well, that's just your opinion, man.

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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby styrofoam » Thu Jun 21, 2012 3:36 pm UTC

webzter_again wrote:
biteme wrote:Also, I kind of like long senseless arguments.


Well, that's just your opinion, man.

Except, in that s case, it really is possible to conclusively know...
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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby webzter_again » Thu Jun 21, 2012 5:49 pm UTC

styrofoam wrote:
webzter_again wrote:
biteme wrote:Also, I kind of like long senseless arguments.


Well, that's just your opinion, man.

Except, in that s case, it really is possible to conclusively know...


stop injecting logic in my attempt to find a jump-off point for a weak joke :cry:

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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby Uzh » Fri Jun 22, 2012 5:05 am UTC

YttriumOx wrote:
Uzh wrote:Funnily enough "ein Paar Hosen" means one (since there are two legs), "ein paar Hosen" means some trousers. So when someone tells me, that he bought "ein paar Hosen" I have to ask, whether the "paar" is capitalized.

Out of interest, whereabouts are you from?


You're from Hannover? I live roughly 100 miles north by northeast.

YttriumOx wrote:Here in Niedersachsen, I've never heard anyone say "ein Paar Hosen" for one pair of trousers - always just "eine Hose".


Of course, you usually say "eine Hose". But in some cases you can say "ein Paar Hosen" if you mean exactly one piece.

YttriumOx wrote:Not being a native German speaker myself, I asked my wife (born and raised in Hannover) and she agrees that to her "ein Paar Hosen" would be (exactly) two pairs of trousers (most likely as an identical pair to be worn by two people who need to dress the same; as opposed to a random two (or more) pairs of trousers, which she'd write as "ein paar Hosen").


Well, ask your wife, what she understands when you want to leave for an event and you say "Warte, Schatz, ich zieh' mir schnell ein anderes Paar Hosen an." (Wait, honey, I just put on another pair of trousers) Does she really thinks, you'd put on two pairs of trousers on top? Hannover is weird and they claim to speak the best German!

Georg
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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby JeffRelayer » Fri Jun 22, 2012 10:01 am UTC

The is only one seriously practical defintion in this space. It is determined by the concept of "Reporting Beer Consumption to a Sober Partner", and is defined in units of Imperial(UK) pints (= 20 Imperial Fluid Ounces). A US pint is approximately 83% of a UK pint.

This scenario involves the reporting party speaking truthfully (for a given value of "truth"), but being perceived generously by the sober party.

Therefore, it logically follows that, in response to the question (imagine speaker, stern expression, arms folded, foot tapping nervously) "How many have you had?", the response is:

"Only a quick one" - 2
"A couple" - 3
"A few" - 4
"Several" - 5 or more

For obvious reasons (like loss of ability to count and/or report with credibility), there is no requirement for units larger than "Several".

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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby Max™ » Fri Jun 22, 2012 9:19 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:That at least doesn't purport to be a specific day, unlike "last", "this", and "next" when it comes to saying what day something is on. People always say things like "next Friday" to mean a specific day, but much less commonly seem aware that not everyone will necessarily interpret that to mean the same Friday the speaker is talking about.

How can there be any confusion here? Next Friday refers to 17 Jan 2000, Friday means 26 Apr 1995, and Friday After Next means 22 Nov 2002.
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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby willaaaaaa » Fri Jun 22, 2012 11:02 pm UTC

JeffRelayer wrote:"Only a quick one" - 2
"A couple" - 3
"A few" - 4
"Several" - 5 or more


Incidentally, this is also the scale used in response to the question, "So, sweetie, how many girlfriends have you had before me?"
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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby zero16lives » Sat Jun 23, 2012 10:00 am UTC

a couple = 2
a few = 3
a handful = more than 3
several = more than a handful
loosely defined...
Oh, and one space after a period, any more is pure anarchy. All you crazy people playing it fast and loose with your spaces. Where does it end?!?

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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby unillogical » Sun Jun 24, 2012 9:16 am UTC

a = one
a couple = two
a few = three or four
several = 5 +
a handful = 5+

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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby J Thomas » Sun Jun 24, 2012 9:49 pm UTC

unillogical wrote:a = one
a couple = two
a few = three or four
several = 5 +
a handful = 5+


I think we've established that there is no consensus about these words. With no consensus, the meanings are imprecise unless you already know how the particular person uses them. So if you want to get the number range or the precise number, whichever they can give you, ask. Your belief about the right way to do it does not apply to the person who is communicating to you.

For myself,

a couple = two

a few = three to five usually. But if you're talking about Napoleon's retreat from Moscow, "a few" can be thousands.

several = 3 or 4 usually.

a handful = 4 to 7 usually. But a handful of peanuts could be 20, a handful of M&Ms could be 40, a handful of sesame seeds could be 500.
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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby slashme » Mon Jun 25, 2012 12:31 pm UTC

Despite all the insistence that "a couple" always means two, it has a couple of meanings, including "two things that go together as a pair", and "a small, indefinite number".

Ambrose Bierce knew this, and major dictionaries agree with him. Wiktionary supports it with citations like, for example: 1839, Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby "A couple of billiard balls, all mud and dirt, two battered hats, a champagne bottle …" for a small indeterminate number - note, he says "two" when he means "two" and "a couple" when he dosen't.

In fact, Bierce says it very well: "Couple expresses indifference to the exact number, as does several. That is true, even in the phrase, a married couple, for the number is carried in the adjective and needs no emphasis." The American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage (2005) says "The sentence She lives only a couple of miles away implies not only that the distance is short but that its exact measure is unimportant."

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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby J Thomas » Mon Jun 25, 2012 12:58 pm UTC

slashme wrote:Despite all the insistence that "a couple" always means two, it has a couple of meanings, including "two things that go together as a pair", and "a small, indefinite number".


Still, the fact is that the meaning is not that precise because people disagree. If you use it to mean a small indefinite number some people will think you mean precisely two. If you want to prevent misunderstanding, you must actually say what you mean and not use "a couple". But if you don't care whether people misunderstand then "a couple" can be adequate.
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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby jqavins » Mon Jun 25, 2012 1:52 pm UTC

J Thomas wrote:I think we've established that there is no consensus about these words. With no consensus, the meanings are imprecise unless you already know how the particular person uses them. So if you want to get the number range or the precise number, whichever they can give you, ask. Your belief about the right way to do it does not apply to the person who is communicating to you.
and
J Thomas wrote:
slashme wrote:Despite all the insistence that "a couple" always means two, it has a couple of meanings, including "two things that go together as a pair", and "a small, indefinite number".
Still, the fact is that the meaning is not that precise because people disagree. If you use it to mean a small indefinite number some people will think you mean precisely two. If you want to prevent misunderstanding, you must actually say what you mean and not use "a couple". But if you don't care whether people misunderstand then "a couple" can be adequate.

Mr. J, I think you've got it. To summarize, each of these words has two meanings, depending on context. Fundementally, since the purpose of words is to convey meaning, and this can only succeed when the meanings of words are agreed upon by a broad concensus, these words have exactly as much meaning as there is concensus about them. So, in some circumstances, "a few," "a handful," "several," "a bunch," etc. all mean "some number, probably more than two, small by some applicable standard, and unimportant;" in similar circumstances "a couple" means "some number, likely just two, but could be more than two, small by some applicable standard, and unimportant;" and in all other circumstances (e.g. when the value or range of values is important) they all mean nothing.

Except, that's not really exactly it, either. There does seem to be (imperfect) concensus that "a couple" ≤ "a few" ≤ "several" and "a couple" < "several." (That is, the "couple" and "few" ranges may intersect, and the "few" and "several" ranges may intersect, but the "couple" and "several" ranges do not.) So there is this vague sense of relative magnitude conveyed, undefinable in anything resembling precise terms, but real nonetheless. (Meanings of words, undefinable but undeniable. I hate when that happens.)
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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby J Thomas » Mon Jun 25, 2012 3:06 pm UTC

jqavins wrote:
J Thomas wrote:I think we've established that there is no consensus about these words. With no consensus, the meanings are imprecise unless you already know how the particular person uses them. So if you want to get the number range or the precise number, whichever they can give you, ask. Your belief about the right way to do it does not apply to the person who is communicating to you.
and
J Thomas wrote:
slashme wrote:Despite all the insistence that "a couple" always means two, it has a couple of meanings, including "two things that go together as a pair", and "a small, indefinite number".
Still, the fact is that the meaning is not that precise because people disagree. If you use it to mean a small indefinite number some people will think you mean precisely two. If you want to prevent misunderstanding, you must actually say what you mean and not use "a couple". But if you don't care whether people misunderstand then "a couple" can be adequate.

Mr. J, I think you've got it. To summarize, each of these words has two meanings, depending on context. Fundementally, since the purpose of words is to convey meaning, and this can only succeed when the meanings of words are agreed upon by a broad concensus, these words have exactly as much meaning as there is concensus about them. So, in some circumstances, "a few," "a handful," "several," "a bunch," etc. all mean "some number, probably more than two, small by some applicable standard, and unimportant;" in similar circumstances "a couple" means "some number, likely just two, but could be more than two, small by some applicable standard, and unimportant;" and in all other circumstances (e.g. when the value or range of values is important) they all mean nothing.

Except, that's not really exactly it, either. There does seem to be (imperfect) concensus that "a couple" ≤ "a few" ≤ "several" and "a couple" < "several." (That is, the "couple" and "few" ranges may intersect, and the "few" and "several" ranges may intersect, but the "couple" and "several" ranges do not.) So there is this vague sense of relative magnitude conveyed, undefinable in anything resembling precise terms, but real nonetheless. (Meanings of words, undefinable but undeniable. I hate when that happens.)


I guess it's possible to define something vague about all this. To me, "a few" stresses that it's small by some applicable standard and unimportant. So for example if you're rounding up all the welfare recipients and putting them in concentration camps, "a few" who escaped could be thousands but still a small unimportant fraction in that context. But you would never use "a couple" or "several" for thousands though you might possibly use "a handful".

But maybe there's even less consensus than I think.
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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby VectorZero » Tue Jun 26, 2012 5:06 am UTC

willaaaaaa wrote:
JeffRelayer wrote:"Only a quick one" - 2
"A couple" - 3
"A few" - 4
"Several" - 5 or more


Incidentally, this is also the scale used in response to the question, "So, sweetie, how many girlfriends have you had before me?"

I thought that went:
"Oh, lots" = 0
"a few" = 1
"several" = 2-3
"4" = 4
"a couple" = 5-12
"like, girlfriends girlfriends? Only one." = 13-50
"You're the only girl for me, baby." = 51+
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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby Herpules » Tue Jun 26, 2012 2:00 pm UTC

JDShu wrote:Few: 1-4
Several: 5-9
Pack: 10-19
Lots: 20-49
Horde: 50-99
Throng: 100-249
Swarm: 250-499
Zounds: 500-999
Legion: 1000 +



Solo = 1
Duo = 2
Small Fellowship = 3
Party = 2-6
Raid = 7-24
Horde = ~380,000

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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby willaaaaaa » Fri Jun 29, 2012 5:36 pm UTC

VectorZero wrote:
willaaaaaa wrote:
JeffRelayer wrote:"Only a quick one" - 2
"A couple" - 3
"A few" - 4
"Several" - 5 or more


Incidentally, this is also the scale used in response to the question, "So, sweetie, how many girlfriends have you had before me?"

I thought that went:
"Oh, lots" = 0
"a few" = 1
"several" = 2-3
"4" = 4
"a couple" = 5-12
"like, girlfriends girlfriends? Only one." = 13-50
"You're the only girl for me, baby." = 51+


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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby Max™ » Fri Jun 29, 2012 7:20 pm UTC

I wonder if we're falling afoul of the Strong Law of Small Numbers?
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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby exotica » Mon Jul 09, 2012 4:14 am UTC

I am shocked and appalled to find so many supporters of single spaces between sentences.

Write a regex that can, with high reliability, take a bunch of prose and insert things between sentences (and nowhere else) when the sentences are separated by only one space. I dare you.

When you type text, you are not typing in a font. You are typing in abstract text. The primary goal should be to make that text easily interpreted, not to make it beautiful. Single space is far more ambiguous than double space. Double space after punctuation is nearly certain to be a sentence delimiter. Single space after punctuation is much less certain, and requires grammatical analysis to be more certain; grammar parsing is complex and you have no hope of doing it right with regex.

Display spacing is completely irrelevant to how text should be represented when stored.

Display spacing is a problem for font and software designers, not something people writing text should deal with at all. Software that converts stored prose text and renders it should recognize ends of sentences (which is harder to do if you only use one space) and apply proper inter-sentence spacing regardless of how many spaces were used between sentences in the source.

The &nbsp; problem... that's the fault of whoever or whatever software converted prose text to xhtml. Kill that person or software, not the person who used two space inter-sentence spacing in stored prose.

I use two spaces between sentences for the same reason I use ISO 8601 date format. It pisses off some humans, but they can learn to get over it, and it's more easily and accurately parsed.

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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby Max™ » Mon Jul 09, 2012 4:48 am UTC

exotica wrote:I am shocked and appalled to find so many supporters of single spaces between sentences.

Write a regex that can, with high reliability, take a bunch of prose and insert things between sentences (and nowhere else) when the sentences are separated by only one space. I dare you.

When you type text, you are not typing in a font. You are typing in abstract text. The primary goal should be to make that text easily interpreted, not to make it beautiful. Single space is far more ambiguous than double space. Double space after punctuation is nearly certain to be a sentence delimiter. Single space after punctuation is much less certain, and requires grammatical analysis to be more certain; grammar parsing is complex and you have no hope of doing it right with regex.

Display spacing is completely irrelevant to how text should be represented when stored.

Display spacing is a problem for font and software designers, not something people writing text should deal with at all. Software that converts stored prose text and renders it should recognize ends of sentences (which is harder to do if you only use one space) and apply proper inter-sentence spacing regardless of how many spaces were used between sentences in the source.

The &nbsp; problem... that's the fault of whoever or whatever software converted prose text to xhtml. Kill that person or software, not the person who used two space inter-sentence spacing in stored prose.

I use two spaces between sentences for the same reason I use ISO 8601 date format. It pisses off some humans, but they can learn to get over it, and it's more easily and accurately parsed.


What is amusing is when you quote your post you see the double spaces, when you simply highlight and copy/paste it like I did above, it's single spaces.
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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby ctristan » Tue Jul 10, 2012 11:04 pm UTC

Whenever someone says that a couple can be 2 or 3, I always imagine that when they're with their significant other and that person says "We're a couple" then that person either has or is planning to have a secret other relationship since they're using a word that they consider vague.

The problem then arises of trying to say "We're a pair", as most inevitably the other person will respond "A pair of what?"

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Re: 1070: "Words for Small Sets"

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Jul 11, 2012 12:04 am UTC

ctristan wrote:since they're using a word that they consider vague.
The word "couple" as a quantifier can be vague without the word "couple" as a standalone noun being similarly vague.
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