Friday, February 25, 2011

Too many countries!

The category of Final Jeopardy was Geographic Terms. The clue was "This region that includes several countries got its name because the colonizers spoke Spanish, French, and Portuguese." I guessed the right answer (Latin America), but the reason I was a bit hesitant was that tricky word "several".

I'm aware that for many people "several" can be six or even seven. The dictionary (Merriam-Webster's Unabridged) rather weasellily in a rather weaselly fashion says
2 a : more than one b : consisting of an indefinite number more than two and fewer than many
("many" they define as "a large but indefinite number")
But there are twenty countries in Latin America. Twenty! Surely that's more than "several".

ps - It occurs to me that they may be using MWU's first definition, the "separate, distinct" meaning. But I doubt it - this is the Teen Tournament, not Champions, and that would be too tricky. Besides, who really talks about "several countries" in that meaning?

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At 10:57 AM, February 26, 2011 Blogger Barry Leiba had this to say...

A former girlfriend and I used to have good-natured arguments about the relative meanings of "a few" and "several". She switched from "a few" to "several" at a higher number than I, and we both had a pretty fluffy definition for "several". Still, though, I think we'd both reject 20 for "several".

I'm not sure I'd say "many" for that, though. Maybe "a buncha", though I don't think they'd opt for that term on J!, hm?

At 12:08 PM, February 26, 2011 Blogger The Ridger, FCD had this to say...

"Quite a few"? Or even "a number of" countries.

At 4:40 PM, February 26, 2011 Blogger Barry Leiba had this to say...

I'd thought about "a number of", but I've never liked that one. It's always struck me as odd (strange, not non-even): one is a number, as are seventeen and eight million.

But, yes, I guess it works.

At 12:31 PM, February 27, 2011 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

DH is fond (perhaps overly so) of the adjective "numerous" in such situations. On occasions when I've had the opportunity to proofread/copy-edit his work, I change some of them to the simpler "many," in order to achieve a less pretentious sounding effect. Unsurprisingly, I'm also the sort who tends to change "at that point in time" to "then" :-)


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