Tag Archives: language

“Several”

GroupDots.jpgApparently I’m wrong. And I’ve been wrong for a while.

Here’s what: one is “one”. Two is “a couple.” Three is “a few,” and somewhere around six or seven is “several.”

Turns out that’s wrong.

According to Merriam-Webster,

sev·er·al adj ˈsev-rəl, ˈse-və-
2a : more than one
b : more than two but fewer than many

So three is “several.” And seven might be “many.”

I have spent the bulk of my life – I don’t know when I first used “several”… “Don’t touch my several Star Wars figures”? – not only misusing the word but judging others for using it too liberally to describe just a little more than a couple.

Well, “misusing” might be too strong. Six might still be several. “Limiting its lower bound,” let’s say, which is a lesser crime and no one is coming for me in a linguistic squad car. (Which would look like what exactly? A Prius? No – a Volt. With a supercilious air. Like mine when I read “several incidents” and find out the journalist means “three.”)

Isn’t “a few” three or four? Doesn’t “several” imply at least seven, given that they share almost all the same letters? And how is that not infallible logic? I didn’t take Latin, but wasn’t there something in third grade, or second, about root words? I think I’m right about this. Really. Someone back me up here.

And, even if it isn’t technically inaccurate, isn’t referring to three of something as “several” kind of an overstatement? If you can use “several” to describe anything from barely more than a few all the way up to, say, twelve, isn’t that like saying “I told you several times not to eat that crayon,” when really this is only the third time just now and who doesn’t want to suck on colorful wax, so back off already, I’m waterproofing my teeth?

All right: I’m soooo sorry if I have inaccurately judged you in the past for using “several” inaccurately when really I was wrong.

Sort of. We both know I’m kind of right still about that overdoing it thing. Kind of.

OK not. But give me a break: “several” to mean “more than one”? Really? “We owned several cars,” when we had a 1986 Corolla and a ’92 Camry? Really? Really???

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Word of the Weekend

apportunity, (ap-er-too-ni-tee), noun A situation or condition favorable for the conceptualization (and subsequent not building) of an iPhone application, usually when drunk or significantly over-tired, to fill a “need” of an insignificant segment of the market.

Derived from noun, “iPhone app” and tagline, “There’s an app for that.”

Usage: “What do you mean there’s nothing out there to determine the ripeness of this watermelon? There is a huge apportunity here.”

Word of the Day

flawesome, (flaw-sum) adj. Flawed, idiotic, but awesome, excellent, breathtaking. Usage: “Attempting a back flip in a kitchen that size was incredibly stupid but still really impressive. Flawesome, dude.”

Language Barrier

I don’t like the word “boyfriend.” I like the word “partner” even less. The former makes me think of making out in high school hallways and the latter makes me think of corporate mergers. Since I live with my boyfriend/partner of four years, “boyfriend” seems too cute and casual. And even though we are legally “domestic partners,” I feel pompous (not to mention like a lesbian) when I refer to him as my “partner.”

“Partner,” is one of those modern words that had a perfectly good specific definition but was appropriated to fill a need – a word to describe the “non-married beyond boyfriend (gay or straight)” – and now has a non-specific definition. Imprecision annoys me. You can’t tell if I’m talking about a man or a woman. You don’t know if it’s someone I met last weekend or someone with whom I have a child.

Why couldn’t we have just come up with something original. Like “bf supreme” or “house man” or just “stud”? I’d call Tim Robbins “stud” if he lived here. No problem.

Perhaps the non-specificity is intentional, like “Ms.” which also obscures personal information about marital status and, by extension, sexual preference. I get that in professional, potentially discriminatory settings but the personal realm remains parched for a more precise alternate word, an equivalent to “Mrs.” or “Miss.” (Speaking of which, I might start a campaign to reintroduce “Master” as the non-married male signifier just to even things out.)

I’ve heard “lover” a couple of times. There is no age (chronological or historical) when that doesn’t make you sound like an a**hole of the first water.

Other titles I’ve considered and rejected:

Suitor
Better Half
Daddy-O
Co-Habitator
BMOC
Muffin

Please send suggestions via Comments link below.