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A million and a half?
PostPosted: Tue Oct 23, 2007 3:26 am Reply with quote
thegooseking
 
Joined: 10 Sep 2006
Posts: 64
Location: Aberdeen, Scotland


I was watching A Scanner Darkly last night, and I noticed that near the beginning of the film that the scramble-suit was described as being able to show "a million and a half" different fractions.

I have to say, it was the third time I'd seen the film, and the first two times, I automatically interpreted its meaning as the probable intended meaning of "one and a half million", but last night I realised that "a million and a half" to me means 1,000,000.5 - which clearly makes little sense in the context.

Is "a million and a half" a regional thing, and if so, in what regions is it common?

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 28, 2007 6:52 am Reply with quote
Dave
 
Joined: 08 Jun 2006
Posts: 357
Location: Washington, DC


I don't know that it's a regional thing. I think it might just be a "laziness thing." I think maybe speakers just don't want to say all those syllables of "one and a half million."

Although, of course, when I count syllables, I find that the two phrases have exactly the same number of syllables, so there goes that theory! Very Happy

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 28, 2007 11:27 am Reply with quote
tristanjay7
 
Joined: 15 Oct 2006
Posts: 28
Location: Madison, WI


When I read the topic's name in passing, I interpreted it as 1.5 million.

To check out my interpretation, I googled "a million and a half." Google's calculator icon came up, and it said "one million and one half = 1 000 000.5".

However, a calculator isn't a native speaker. Check out this line:

Quote:
"Suppose we assume that a million and a half Armenians died between 1915 and 1923 in a systematic and deliberate campaign; personally I know of no reason to doubt that, but Im not a historian of the Ottoman Empire." http://badattitudes.com/MT/archives/2007/10/a_million_and_a_1.html
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 29, 2007 1:28 am Reply with quote
thegooseking
 
Joined: 10 Sep 2006
Posts: 64
Location: Aberdeen, Scotland


Thinking of some other examples where it's acceptable to say either "one and a half x" or "a x and a half" I do think it may not be so much a regional thing, nor necessarily a 'laziness' thing, but rather the difference is a way of distinguishing accuracy.

To me, it seems like "one and a half hours" is exactly 90 minutes, but "an hour and a half" is only roughly 90 minutes. The same goes for "one and a half pounds" and "a pound and a half", "one and a half boxes" or "a box and a half". If a million can be treated as a single unit rather than a million units, the same would work there. Assuming I'm not imagining the distinction, that is.

Maybe my inclination to "one and a half million" rather than "a million and a half", then, speaks to my geeky technical-mindedness rather than my location. The example of the Google calculator might support this: I suppose you can't get more technically-minded than a machine.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 29, 2007 4:38 am Reply with quote
RabiAkiva
 
Joined: 28 Jun 2006
Posts: 163
Location: Israel


I think, goose, you have just led us to another element of analysis. Since you can say one and a half, one hour and a half, one pound and a half, you can say one X and a half, when taking X as some kind of undivided unit.
Usually when we speak in large quantities, it is not meaningful to address the singularities, or even the scores. We throw thousands or millions or even billions as the undividable units of our counting. And in that respect a million and a half is 1.5 million. (Man, we're bending to half a unit, we're even being accurate here.) We are not talking one million units. One million is the unit. And half a unit is half a million. Less than half of a millionth is nothing, hence meaningless.
What it boils down to, is the context in which we speak and what counts in that particular context as a useful quantitative unit. From there we will know what one half means.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2007 2:04 am Reply with quote
thegooseking
 
Joined: 10 Sep 2006
Posts: 64
Location: Aberdeen, Scotland


I think it's more specific than that. I think a million and a half is kind of a set phrase: I've certainly never heard anyone talking of "three million and a half".

But maybe you're right... when you're talking about a million, half a million is a huge margin of error of 50%, so probably needs to be included even though the 'million' is the unit, but talking about three million, half a million is only a margin of error of 17%

That leads back to my previous point, though. "Three and a half million" I have heard, which is maybe what makes me think the error threshold for that construct is lower, that construct therefore being more accurate.

Really, I think it's probably a combination of the two. The 'million' is used as a singular unit in "a million and a half", but it's used as a singular unit because accuracy is less important.

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A million and a half?
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