Is it correct to say "cold temperature"?
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Cold, when used as adjective, means "of a low temperature", or "at a low temperature" (it could also be used as relative term); when it is used as noun, it means "low temperature".
You can say low temperature, or simply cold.
The words hot and cold (also warm, freezing etc) is actually used as comparatives even when we don't think about it. If we say something is just "hot" we mean it has a higher temperature than usual, or higher temerature than our body temperature (or something else we would typically compare it to).
Hot and cold really doesn't relate directly to temperature, but rather our perception of temperature which is not absolute but rather based on temperature differences. When we touch an object we feel it as cold, warm, or hot depending on the relative temperature difference between the object and our skin, and when the difference is great enough we feel only pain (often referred to as a "burning" sensation, dry ice and red hot metal feels the same, only the surrounding tissue that don't get hurt can give a guess about the hotness/coldness of an object; but it can be fooled: try toucing an ice cube in a sauna and you'd swear it's red hot, not cold)
but when we feel cold or warm, we actually feel the difference between our body's actual temperature and the ideal temperature our internal "thermostat" want it to be. We produce heat all the time so we depend on a certain loss of heat to function, which means we want the surroundings to be colder than our core temperature, so what we feel when we think the surroundings is cold, warm or comfortable is how hard the body has to work to increase or decrease the temperature. This is very apparent when we have a rising fever; we feel cold as we get hotter because we feel the body trying to warm up, and when the feever is falling we feel hot as we get colder again.
What I mean by this long rant, is that using "hot" and "cold" together whith "temperature" is not very useful, except for comparing temperatures: especially when temperature scales with negative numbers is used (Celsius and Farenheit etc) its better to say its "10 degrees colder" than saying its "10 degrees less" when talking about the difference between -10°C and -20°C because the negative numbers may confuse us.
And btw, don't ever talk about "doubling" temperatures unless using Kelvin (or any other scale with an absolute zero point), 100°C (373.15 K) is not "twice" as hot as 50°C (323.15 K).
The word temperature is value-neutral without a modifier. It implies neither heat nor cold. If you can say "a temperature of 0°C" or "a temperature of 98.6°F" you certainly ought to be able to talk about a "cold" or a "hot" temperature.
It depends on context. When temperature is used as an attribute of an object, you can say the temperature of the coffee is hot. It's possible to analyse this as an example of the use–mention distinction, which is clearly illustrated by using quotes:
Or by substituting a different attribute, as in the colour of the coffee is brown. But while this is not wrong, it sounds somewhat stilted, and may be semantically misleading. As others have mentioned, it's possible to analyse the temperature of the coffee is hot as:
Which is clearly wrong, or at least some strange kind of redundant. In phrases such as cold temperature and fast speed, I think there are two things at work. First and most importantly, people associate low temperature and cold thing and synthesise them into one term, cold temperature. Second, you can still analyse this as a mention of the adjective, in apposition with the noun it modifies. Quotes, again, serve to illustrate how this can work, and also how awkward it is:
Which you can restructure to be compatible with the earlier examples:
Because of this, it's possible to analyse such sentences as 20°C is a colder temperature than 30°C by referring to the nature or quality of the things involved: the nature of the temperature “20°C” is that it is colder than the temperature “30°C”. It is equally valid to use words such as temperature and speed to refer to the literal scientific concept as well as the subjective experience.
However, regardless of whether you'll be understood, it's usually considered better to write according to the clearer and more literal semantic interpretation:
"Temperature" is an abstract concept designed to convey a relative measurement of heat. "Temperature" has no physical properties — one cannot paint, hold, touch, throw or place a temperature in one's pocket. Likewise one cannot boil or freeze a temperature, therefore it cannot be "cold" or "hot" although whatever is being measured can be.
The weather or air can be "hot" or "cold", temperature cannot be. Temperature is the measurement, not what is being measured. To say the "temperature is hot" is confusing the measurement with what is being measured. Temperature can be "high" or "higher" or "lower" relative to some other measurement. Saying "The temperature of the coffee is hot." just doesn't make any sense and is unnecessarily wordy. It is the coffee that is hot, not the temperature. "The coffee is hot." makes sense and is correctly stated.
To answer the question, "cold temperature" or "hot temperature" is not only definitely wrong, it makes no sense.
The few instances I can offer right away in defense of the phrase would be:
Obviously, though, without a strongly appropriate context, the phrases cold temperature and hot temperature are just wrong.
protected by RegDwigнt♦ Nov 26 '12 at 9:59
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