TENS OF SUMMARIES.

From Katherine Arcement’s LRB Diary on reading and writing fanfic: “But by the time I told her I had stopped spending so much time online. I got bored with having to scroll through tens of misspelled summaries to find just one story that sounded appealing.” To me, “tens of misspelled summaries” sounds wrong, like something a non-native-speaker used to words like French dizaines or Russian десятки would come up with, but the author “will graduate from the College of William and Mary in May with a bachelor’s degree in English,” so I think we can rule that out as an explanation; it’s more likely that, as happens increasingly often, I am behind the curve of a changing language. And, as usual, I turn to you, the Varied Reader: does “tens” in place of the traditional “dozens” sound OK? (It’s hard to google for examples because of the prevalence of phrases like “tens of thousands.”)

Comments

  1. Jonathan Wright says:

    It doesn’t sound OK to me. I’m a literary translator into English and I routinely convert tens into dozens. Maybe it is a younger-generation thing (I’m in my late 50s).

  2. So-called “tens” is just wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I just noticed that eggs in Norway are sold in sixes and dozens. Presumably they found that five rational eggs are completely impractical for packing in two rows, unlike six and twelve which are both even and so work properly. So much for decimalisation, a total failure.

  3. I’d use it, though not formally, and it’s instantly comprehensible to me: some number between 20 and 99. (I wouldn’t use “dozens” formally either, for that matter. Don’t quite see the problem here.)

  4. tens of misspelled summaries
    Unlike dozens, tens doesn’t work as a collective noun. You can maybe get away with “tens of summaries” but you can’t talk about “a ten of summaries”, or “a couple of ten”, as you can “a dozen summaries” or “a couple of dozen”.

  5. (by the way, on Google you can search for ‘”tens of” -thousands -millions -billions’ to get around the common phrase problem.)

  6. D Sky Onosson says:

    Perfectly comprehensible, but not something I’ve ever run across as far as I can remember. I’d be very hesitant to call it “wrong”, but I don’t think I can imagine a situation where it would be preferable to “dozens”.

  7. i recalled my favourite cartoons where they discuss what constitutes kucha – a heap, how many nuts would make it
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mk_semhdMLY
    the best! must be there is a lot of european influence in there cartoons/ a joke
    this one is with english subtitles, there were four uploads of the series with the english subtitles
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iEHyrNX4IR8
    i mean the blog discussions sometimes remind me of them :)

  8. Don’t quite see the problem here.
    Well, of course you don’t, since it sounds OK to you! You’ll just have to take my word for it that to some of us it sounds quite alien—though of course I wouldn’t call it “wrong,” and if people keep using it I’ll doubtless get accustomed to it.

  9. Trond Engen says:

    My wife alerted me just the other day about a subtitle using the idiomatic Norwegian titalls for English dozens. She thought I’d like it, and she was right.
    Apart from that I agree with Crown. Or rather, I accept the metric system as vastly superior in a decimal world, but whoever decided to count in base 10 rather than 12 has much to answer for.

  10. J.W. Brewer says:

    Perhaps via excessive consumption of fanfic the author has picked up this usage from stories about a dystopian future in which oppressive mandatory decimalization has driven “dozens of” out of the language?

  11. Using Google NGram Viewer, it appears that your instincts are correct, in general: while tens of thousands used to account for 90% or more of all instances of “tens of [any noun]“, that figure dropped mid-century to around 60%, although it’s basically been stable since 1980 at that point.

  12. It’s certainly more marked than “hundreds” or “dozens”, but I’ve heard it often enough that the quoted sentence probably wouldn’t have caught my attention as unusual. I’m actually not sure whether I’d be more likely to use “tens” or “dozens” myself, under those circumstances.

  13. Hah! Fun. I gather that it does sound really queer to some of you. Good to know. It just sounds folksy to me, in the same register as “dozen,” really.

  14. Nathaniel says:

    It would sound to me if the writer wanted to deprecatingly allude to hundreds and thousands, e.g., “I have tens of subscribers to my blog!” and I have noticed the usage before in that sense at least. That doesn’t seem to be the case here.

  15. It sounds funny to me. Not as funny as, say, “nines of summaries” would sound.
    “Tens of thousands” and “tens of millions” and “hundreds of thousands” sound perfectly fine. “Fives of thousands” is bad. We don’t say “three hundreds of thousands”, but we do say “hundreds of thousands”.
    We say “a dozen oysters” and “two dozen oysters” but “dozens of oysters”. Are there dialects in which you say “a dozen of oysters”?

  16. marie-lucie says:

    Trond: whoever decided to count in base 10 rather than 12 has much to answer for.
    Of course mathematically Base 12 would be better as 12 is divisible more ways than 10, but Base 10 derives from what we can count with our own bodies – most obviously our fingers. So Base 12 is the more sophisticated base (used by the ancient Mesopotamian astronomers and still used for time calculations), Base 10 (or even Base 5) the more primitive one.

  17. I’d prefer “dozens” or “scores” of summaries, but “tens of summaries” sounds only mildly odd to me. I don’t think I’d say it myself, except perhaps in the sense Nathaniel mentions above. But I didn’t realize from the title of this post that the point was going to be strangeness of “tens of summaries,” so that says something too.

  18. Was going to agree with Nathaniel (tens as a joking paraprosdokian), but it sounds like the joke had begun to be lost on some speakers. You might compare this with “Déjà vu all over again.”

  19. Chris Ely says:

    More than once I’ve had the problem of how to translate десятки. I feel like I’d be lying or cheating if I were to use “dozens,” and I think I’ve tried crappy alternatives like “many tens of.” So therefore if this is really a new expression I’d welcome it.

  20. Sounds fine to me in the plural, but it doesn’t work in the singular (though it could become OK).
    Since we are familiar with dozens and scores, the mere numeral seems, well, naked. What comes to mind is decads (no, not decades). What language am I in here?
    Actually I would prefer base nine, or neniad, since it’s the cube of the number of the goddess, and like the ancients, I find the multiples of three very powerful. A favourite superstition should be enjoyable; believability is irrelevant.

  21. AJP says ‘Decimalisation is a failure.’ Only because we fogeys are still alive.
    In Canada, the Federal Metricifation Committee, back in the day, made a ‘conscious decision’ (is there any other kind?) not to metrify, or decimalise, the clock and the compass. They are still base 12, like selling eggs. Can you imagine an hour with 100 minutes? The compass would have 100 grades, not degrees. The Committee was very wise. The fogeys would have marched on Ottawa, in ranks of a dozen, of course.

  22. COCA suggests that non-numerical collocates of “tens of” are pretty rare. The list includes various units of length (“meters,” “kilometers,” “nanometers,” “centimeters,” “miles,” “microns,” “light-years”) and other measurements (“seconds,” “milliseconds,” “degrees,” “kilowatts,” “tons,” “centuries”). For decimalized units of the metric system, at least, “tens” makes sense.

  23. But can we be sure she didn’t mean to write “tons of” and, you know, _misspelled_ it? :)

  24. I am almost certain that the use of “tens” was tongue in cheek, and the author suspected it would baffle linguistic fuddy-duddies.

  25. AJP says ‘Decimalisation is a failure.’ Only because we fogeys are still alive.
    I know it’s hard to tell sometimes, but I’m only joking. Of course decimalisation is better is most cases, and I really couldn’t care less if people say tens of instead of dozens of. It’s worth noting, though, that we have a word “twelve” and a word “dozen” but no such equivalent word with the decimal system, only “decade” (and century) for years, and the above-mentioned score.

  26. I got bored with having to scroll through tens of misspelled summaries
    “Thousands of misspelled summaries” would have sounded fine. I think she was using “tens of” as an exponential equivalent of “thousands of”. It had nothing directly to do with decimalising “dozens”.

  27. Trond Engen says:

    marie-lucie: Maybe it’s wrong to blame the poor fellow who chose to count his fingers, but the one who chose to have five fingers had an unforgivable lack of foresight.
    AJP: I know you’re joking. I think there’s a tongue in every cheek until I see the foam and feel the gall.

  28. I had heard “tens of X” before, and it didn’t sound particularly odd to me. It did take me back to elementary school math class (in the mid-1980s), where we routinely talked about “tens” as a unit.

  29. tetri_tolia says:

    I hear tens a lot at my university: both in scientific literature and from the 95% of students who aren’t native speakers. It sounded quite strange at first but I’ve gotten used to it; still not quite comfortable with using it.

  30. dearieme says:

    Thinking of the mathematicians I’ve known – shy, introverted, even autistic – I reckon that we count in tens because we have ten toes not ten fingers.

  31. More than once I’ve had the problem of how to translate десятки. I feel like I’d be lying or cheating if I were to use “dozens”
    No you wouldn’t: “dozens” is the English equivalent of десятки, and there’s no other way to translate it unless and until “tens” becomes a great deal more common. Don’t forget that we’re not talking about exact numbers; if we’re looking at a pile of logs that would turn out, if counted, to contain exactly 54, then “tens of logs” and “dozens of logs” are equally accurate and equally inaccurate. It’s a question of idiom, and (for most English-speakers) there is no idiom “tens of.”
    But can we be sure she didn’t mean to write “tons of” and, you know, _misspelled_ it? :)
    No, we can’t, and I should have thought of that possibility myself. I hope it’s the case! I can deal with typos far more easily than annoying changes to the language. (Annoying to me personally, of course, and to my fellow fuddy-duddies.)

  32. @dearieme – did they go around barefoot (wouldn’t surprise me)? I guess your observation might be correct, and what we’ve got is binary :)

  33. I agree with the upthread comments that it sounds like a mild joke, an understatement concerning exactly how much effort Arcement put into scrolling through summaries.

  34. marie-lucie says:

    in French there are a several words for approximate numbers, derived from the words for round numbers. Unlike the round numbers, tne derived numbers tend to be restricted to specific contexts: eggs for a dozen, otherwise distances, time periods, and other things where accuracy is either not required or difficult to attain. They also constitute a fixed class, since no new approximate numbers can be formed in the same manner.
    - une douzaine (usually ‘exactly 12′, for eggs, but also ‘about 12′ for other things including age in years); this is the word which was borrowed into English as dozen;
    - une dizaine ‘about 10′, for years or days, distances, or objects
    - une huitaine ‘about or exactly 8′, almost always for years of age or days – with the latter, refers to a week, by counting both the first and the last day
    - une quinzaine ‘about or exactly 15′, in contexts similar to those for dizaine; with days, refers to a two-week period, counting both the first and last days)
    -
    une vingtaine ‘about or exactly 20′
    - une centaine ‘about or exactly 100′
    Une neuvaine (from neuf ’9′) also exists, but with the special meaning of ‘nine-day period of prayer’ in the Catholic Church.
    For numbers from approximately 30 to 60 the words trentaine, quarantaine, cinquantaine, soixantaine are used mostly in reference to groups of things or persons and to approximate ages. (From 70 to 90 there is no single word in -aine because those numbers are compound words). In France these words refer to the start of a decade of age (as in friser la quarantaine ‘to have almost reached forty), but in Canada to the whole decade (like forties, fifties, etc.
    In addition there is un millier ‘about 1000′, next to mille ’1000′. This word is most often used in the plural (like thousands), without an actual number.

  35. marie-lucie says:

    iakon: In Canada, the Federal Metrification Committee, back in the day, made a ‘conscious decision’ (is there any other kind?) not to metrify, or decimalise, the clock and the compass.
    I did not know that they had even thought of it. It would have been unbelievably disruptive to be the only country in the world to refer to time in that way! But such a thing was considered during the French Revolution, which established the decimal system of measurement: in some museums you can see clocks made at the time, marking ten divisions instead of twelve. At the time, decimalization of most measurements was a very practical decision as units of length, weight, volume, etc were different not only in different countries but in the various provinces, creating obstacles (among many others) to commercial transactions within the country as well as outside. But time and angles had been measured in the same way internationally for millennia already, starting with the Mesopotamian astronomers, so there was no need for reform in that area.

  36. m-l, I heard the anecdote about the Metrification Committee from my supervisor at the time, who was on the provincial committee. This of course puts it in the realm of ‘unsubstantiated’.

  37. marie-lucie says:

    iakon, “officially” unsubstantiated. I am sure someone proposed it without thinking of the consequences and was quickly silenced.

  38. Off-topic: Over at Universe Today today there is an article about astronomical April Fool’s Day hoaxes. One of last year is reported from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which monitors spacecraft Messenger, orbiting Mercury. I have a couple of grammatical queries about it.
    In this snippet ‘…a purported moon of the planet Mercury’s…’ is the redundant possessive a feature only of the American Standard Dialect?
    The sentence at the end of the paragraph states ‘The “moon” also bared a suspicious resemblance to the asteroid 243 Ida…’. This is the first time I have encountered this form of the past tense of the verb to bear. It sent a shudder down my spine all the way from cranium to coccyx. It also seemed to be a synonym for revealed. I would have used the form ‘bore’. Is anybody with me?

  39. In a comment at the end of the obove-mentioned article is a link
    (http//ilpoliedrico.com/2011/03/stereo-serendipity-scoperto-planeta-gemello.html)
    to an article in italian which is a similar hoax, or rather joke. Some of you may wish to practice reading italian. Even if you click for a translation, can you spot the error (a number) in position? This is just a test to see if anyone is paying attention.

  40. I’m sure you’re right, m-l.

  41. Given how much fanfic there is, especially in popular universes (of discourse), I really do think tons of was intended.

  42. dearieme may be thinking of the old joke (which my wife and I first heard from a fairly shy mathematics student who did his PhD under my supervision):
    Q: What’s the difference between an introverted mathematician and an extroverted mathematician?
    A: The introvert looks at his shoes when he talks to you. The extrovert looks at your shoes when he talks to you.

  43. Someone should ask Arcement about this. Not about mathematicians and their shoes, but the other thing.

  44. in French there are a several words for approximate numbers, derived from the words for round numbers.
    @Marie-Lucie: This also happens in Spanish, which has near-parallel expressions to those of French:
    docena: a dozen, also applied for eggs.
    decena: ten units, applied to the composition of large figures(miles, centenas, decenas, unidades: thousands, hundreds, tens, units), approximate number of years – decenas de años. “Docena” would sound not quite idiomatic, in this context.
    década: a period of ten years, frequently designating a distinctive period, such as “la década de los 20″ (the twenties.
    veintena: score, or 20 units. Mostly applied to years, or numbers of people. The same goes for treintena (thirty).
    cuarentena: a group of 40, but this exclusively has come to be equated with quarantine, no longer to designate 40 years or a group of 40 people.
    centena: a group of 100 units. With an article, may designate a group of people, years. Without an article, refers to the composition of figures, as explained above.
    cientos: literally, hundreds. Used as you would in English.
    Were it not for @languagehat’s note that the user of the “tens-of-summaries” expression would be majoring in English with a bachelor’s degree, I would have considered it a calque from Spanish. I would have also rather used dozens or scores instead.

  45. I would have used the form ‘bore’. Is anybody with me?
    I’m pretty sure just about all English-speakers are with you; I have no idea where the writer got “bared,” but since it doesn’t bear even a superficial resemblance to the present tense (if you were going to form a regular past, it would be “beared”) it’s presumably a one-off error.

  46. iakon seems to suggest that the writer was thinking also of “bare” in the sense of “reveal”. It is conceivable that this is someone who has always heard “bear a resemblance” as an instance of “bare”.

  47. Katherine Arcement says:

    Bear with me, as I’m writing with one hand, but I found this through twitter, and had to comment.
    In retrospect I agree ‘tens’ sounds a bit weird, but it was not a misspelling. Looking now at ff.net, the stories actually come up as twenty to a page, which was why I went with ‘tens.’
    I also was a fluent Spanish speaker as a child, learning the metric system, which may have had something to do with it.
    That said, it now reads as a bit of a slangy joke. One which the LRB editors obviously did not catch, so thank you.

  48. Heh. Thanks very much for stopping by and clearing that up—my mind is now at ease!

  49. Oh, and I should add that I enjoyed your piece quite a lot.

  50. “Tens” strikes me as a playfully, delibrately askance variation.

  51. Isidora says:

    Ø
    Thanks for the math joke. I shall do my best to remember to share it with my husband, who likes math jokes, and with our son,who ought to find it amusing since he is extremely gaze-aversive as a result of Asperger’s Syndrome.
    By the way, how is your moniker pronounced? Is it the symbol for null or is it the Danish and Norwegian front rounded vowel? I’m guessing the former since I now know that you are a mathematician.

  52. I’ve heard that, in British university libraries, the catalog numbers of what we would now call ‘adult’ books were prefaced with the character ‘Ø.’

  53. Isidora: I pronounce it “Empty”.
    Some people will tell you that the mathematical symbol for the empty (or null) set is supposed to be different from that Scandinavian letter–to have a different shape, I mean–but that distinction is too subtle for me.
    You have to really practice that joke before you tell it. It’s very easy to go wrong. For example, you’ve already screwed it up if you say, with emphasis, “The introvert looks at his shoes …”

  54. I would read ‘tens of comments’ as (inaccurately in this case) marking someone with a science background. There, it’s specifically used to distinguish an estimate from ‘a few’ or ‘hundreds’, and meaning some number between 10 and, say, 40. I just googled ‘tens of photons per second’ and found a few millions of hits.
    Physicist-types are encouraged to be able to do ‘order of magnitude’ estimates quickly: the famous ‘how many piano tuners are there in large-city-X?’ puzzle is essentially an exercise in keeping track of powers of ten. Thus London is 10 millon people (rather than 1 or 100 million), so there might be 100,000 pianos (1 per 100 people, as opposed to 10,000 pianos or 1 million), and so on. With that mindset, ‘tens’ — meaning ?’a few times ten’ — is a natural contrast with 100s — meaning ‘a few times ten to the two’.
    But the LRB contributor information about this author suggests that this reason doesn’t really hold water. Oh well….

  55. I doubt that there is anything close to one piano for every hundred people in London.

  56. marie-lucie says:

    AJP, I agree, that sounds way too high. But there must have been more pianos a century or two ago, before everybody had means of “playing” music without using human-operated musical instruments.

  57. Well, that wasn’t really my point…, but one per 1000 seemed a bit low, and ‘few per 1000′ would be straying into the High Precision regime.
    The trick with these things is to keep a tab of probably-high and probably-low estimates, and aim for them to roughly balance out. If you can get to within an order of magnitude or two of the right answer, that counts as a win (Wikipedia on your phone can bring this to an earlier end, but doing so prematurely is generally regarded as unsporting).

  58. Instead of decimalizing the clock or the compass, wouldn’t it be more amusing to radianize them?

  59. I’m sure you’re right, m-l, pianolas too.
    But Mr Gray – Norman – in the case of piano tuners doesn’t it depend on which two orders of magnitude you are within? If I were to order spare piano wire for three hundred piano tuners instead of thirty I would have extra wire that I could store in my garage and use up later; however, if I ordered piano wire for thirty-thousand piano tuners and it turned out there were in fact only three thousand, and I was stuck with twenty-seven thousand rolls of piano wire, then I’d have to rent a warehouse and try to sell off the remainder as picture-hanging wire and decorative string. Maybe you could use it for car repairs, carry a roll in your glove compartment for when your exhaust pipe falls off.

  60. @Bill W
    Hmm. “So, we’ll get together at about 3π/2.” Works for me.

  61. Medrawt says:

    For what little it’s worth (native speaker of American English, no more than the required amount of science background), I’ve used “tens” both in the self-deprecating way – “I have literally tens of dollars at my disposal!” – and also sometimes sincerely to indicate a nonspecific amount where I feel, for some reason I can’t articulate, like “dozens” would be a little too big. However, I’m aware that the usage is uncommon and therefore still has a slightly playful (hopefully) affect.

  62. Trond Engen says:

    Medrawt: For what little it’s worth (native speaker of American English, no more than the required amount of science background)
    For answering the general question it’s hard to imagine a better background.

  63. By ‘within an order of magnitude’ I mean ‘no more than one order of magnitude out’: wrong by no more than a factor of ten.
    So continuing the estimate: If there is indeed one piano per 1000 Londoners, then that means 10,000 pianos which need tuning (say) once a year. If it takes a day to tune a piano, and there are 100 working days in a year (near enough), then that brings us down to 100 tuners. I think I’ve made two underestimates there, so I think that the real number is probably on the high side of 100 – between 100 and 1000 (or, returning to the language issue, ‘a few times 10 to the two’). And that sounds pretty plausible; I think I’m probably right to within an order of magnitude.
    And… clickety-click… the Yellow Pages lists 86 entries for piano tuners there . Since that’s also likely to be an underestimate (it’s pretty certainly not an _over_estimate), that’s a second route to few x 10^2). Not bad; wey-hey!
    Cosmology used to be notorious for estimates within a couple of orders of magnitude – for not being able to measure things to better than a factor of hundreds or thousands or more. Having error bars on your powers of ten is either rather desperate or raffishly stylish, depending on your point of view.

  64. AJP: There are other options. You could sell it to terrorists, er, freedom fighters, to help them stave off cavalry attacks, for example.
    Empty, Isadora: Lower case o with slash is ø, upper-case o with slash is Ø, the empty-set symbol is ∅.

  65. JC: Your “empty-set symbol” is wider than it is tall. Sez who?

  66. Norman, thanks. I see what you’re getting at and I like the way you brought it back to the language question. I find physicists are inherently stylish and certainly never desperate.
    JC, a piano wire stretched tightly across the road works against bicycles too (so I’m told). I wonder if terrorists and piano tuners are of the same order of magnitude in London. Say there’s one for every ten piano tuners, or ten. That’s not a whole lot of piano wire. I’d be better off selling it to the cyclists for emergency spoke replacement.

  67. Empty: Etymologically (if that word can be applied to symbols) ∅ is a slashed circle rather than a slashed “o” or “O”. Thus it should be equally wide and tall, but YMMV. In any case, it is wider than O relative to its height in most fonts. There is a graphical variant which is a slashed zero, 0̸ (may not look right on your browser).

  68. mollymooly says:

    I too would always use “dozens” rather than “tens” in contexts such as the OP quote. The order-of-magnitude specificity of “tens” is not restricted to highly mathematical language; “tens rather than hundreds” can occur in any type journalism.
    I wonder whether, for some speakers, “dozen(s)” is following “(a) couple (of)” in drifting away from its initial specific-number sense further into the realms of vagueness; in which case, “tens” might become a more attractive choice precisely because of its specificity.
    French “douzaine” applies to oysters as well as eggs.

  69. Tens is very common in the IT world. It may have gained currency in a jocular context.
    After this we’ll have – oh, tens of visitors to our website.

  70. I have literally tens of dollars at my disposal
    Jocular or not, it certainly doesn’t have the same connotations as I have literally dozens of dollars at my disposal.
    ‘Tens of dollars’, because dollars are decimal and you’d count sums of money that way (further ranging up to hundreds and thousands).
    ‘Dozens of dollars’ suggests that you’re actually counting the notes (or bills) as physical objects.

  71. I just noticed that eggs in Norway are sold in sixes and dozens.
    Really? In Austria eggs are sold in 6s and 10s. I guess they take decimalisation more seriously here.

  72. I wonder how that should sound it Russian if one uses, conversely, дюжины. “Дюжины орфографически неправильных резюме?” “Дюжины аннотаций c орфографическими ошибками?” Sounds ugly. Sounds slightly better with десятки instead of дюжины.

  73. “Tens” of anything is a particularly unnecessary neologism, since not only do we have “dozens,” we also have the word “scores” to suggest a vague round number larger than 39.

  74. Indeed.

  75. marie-lucie says:

    AJP: I’m sure you’re right, m-l, pianolas too.
    Actually, I was not thinking of pianolas, but of record-players, tape-recorders, CDs, etc. In older times, if you wanted to listen to music, you had to play an instrument or sing or have access to people who did.
    mollymooly: French “douzaine” applies to oysters as well as eggs.
    Yes, that’s right, I didn’t think of it because my family didn’t eat oysters and neither do I. Eggs are the most common thing sold by the dozen (or half-dozen), but other things can be bought and sold that way, such as rolls or small pastries. A dozen of whatever has the advantage of being easily divisible into two, three or four portions, unlike ten: how would you share five oysters equally among two or three persons?

  76. In Russia, in Moscow at least, eggs are sold in 10- and 6-egg packs, much like in Austria I guess. I don’t think I’ve seen twelve-packs. The half-dozens appeared recently, probably a marketing strategy appealing to small families.

  77. In the sciences and engineering, there is a thing called a “back of the envelope calculation”, or “order of magnitude estimate”. Usually it involves getting the first digit right, and the decimal in the right place. People who make these will often talk of “tens of Xs” and “thousands of Ys”. (How many piano tuners in London? how many shoes from a cow?)
    It smacks of jargon to those who don’t make them.

  78. mollymooly says:
  79. John, the way I produce my slashed circle it looks quite round to me (just as I want it to be), but now you’ve got me wondering if some people using other browsers are seeing it differently, more tall than wide.

  80. Empty, how circular does O look to you? For me, O and Ø are both taller than they are wide.

  81. But not nearly so non-circular as 0, which is only maybe half as wide as it is tall.

  82. John, in the font that I see LH comments in, the letter O is circular. Also the lower-case o. And the digit 0 is taller than it is wide. Whereas in the font that I get when typing LH comments the upper-case O is taller than it is wide and the digit 0 is even more that way (while the lower-case o is either round or maybe a shade wider than tall).
    In that font that makes O and o circular, the slashed O and o (produced by typing “ampersand Oslash semicolon” and “ampersand oslash semicolon”) are also circular, while the symbol produced by typing “ampersand emptyset semicolon” comes out wider than it is tall.
    I want my empty-set symbol round, of course, and also I prefer it to be upper-case height.

  83. Your empty-set symbol looks round to me.

  84. marie-lucie says:

    It depends on the font. On my computer the comments box is in a different font from the finished text, and here as I type within the box, the capital letter O is not round but taller than wide, although not as thin as the figure 0 ‘zero’. But the text previewed and posted shows circular o and O, with a thinner 0. I used the Norwegian keyboard to get the letters ø and Ø which are just o and O slashed. I don’t know how to do “emptyset”.

  85. marie-lucie says:

    I guess that what I see is the same as what Ø does, but what JC sees on the screen is what Ø and I see in the comments box.

  86. For the record, you can specify the empty set symbol ∅ as “∅”. But I usually google for “empty set” and then copy and paste the symbol from Wikipedia or wherever.
    It’s also lighter in weight than Ø, at least on my screen.

  87. David Marjanović says:

    I confirm that eggs are sold in Austria, and Germany, in sixpacks and tenpacks.
    It may be interesting in this context that, while Standard German has the word Dutzend, it’s not in my active vocabulary, and my dialect lacks it entirely. Sometimes -zig (from zwanzig, vierzig, fünfzig, sechzig, siebzig, achtzig, neunzig) is used in isolation, but that’s mostly a weaker version of “gazillion”; it cannot be modified as in “a few dozen”.
    On the other hand, I wouldn’t even know what to do with 12 eggs at once…
    Is “score” in common use? I thought it was only poetic anymore?

    But can we be sure she didn’t mean to write “tons of” and, you know, _misspelled_ it? :)

    No, we can’t, and I should have thought of that possibility myself. I hope it’s the case!

    But how would that work? The words don’t sound similar enough for a native speaker to confuse them, and e and o are in quite different places on the keyboard.

    upper-case o with slash is Ø, the empty-set symbol is ∅

    In the font I see the comments in (Verdana?), ∅ is larger than Ø in all dimensions, and both are as circular as possible (height and width are the same in number of pixels). For this purpose, ∅ has an extra pixel on each oblique line, making the line two pixels thick in those places and prevent the symbol from being a regular octogon.
    It’s different in the comment box, where a monospace (typewriter-like) font (Courier New?) is used: ∅ is much larger than Ø and lacks the extra pixels on the oblique lines, so it is octogonal. Both are still as tall as wide (in number of pixels).

    But not nearly so non-circular as 0, which is only maybe half as wide as it is tall.

    6 pixels wide, 8 tall. O is 8 wide and also 8 tall. In the comment window, the horizontal and vertical lines have 3 px instead of 4, so it’s 7 x 7; the same holds for Ø. Lowercase o is 5 x 5 in both fonts.

  88. astrotter says:

    Another vote for “tens” being common and normal-sounding in science — but in my experience (astronomy), only when used in conjunction with units of measurement. “A few tens of parsecs”, or “tens of photons/cm2/sec” is fine. “Tens of planets” sounds weird.

  89. Score is not in common use. Note that it doesn’t mean simply 20, but 20 things; “ten plus ten is a score” is unacceptable, at least to me. It has to be used with some units such as years: “fourscore and seven years ago” etc.

  90. As a child I briefly thought, based on that one example, that “score” meant “twenty years”.

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